Characteristics of the Tasmanian Merino clip

This article is the second instalment looking at Tasmanian wool production, or more specifically Tasmanian Merino wool production which follows on from the article published earlier this week.

The most significant driver of wool value is fibre diameter, although the effect does ebb and flow. Figure 1 shows the season average fibre diameter for Merino wool sold in Australia (all regions), Merino wool sold from Tasmania and for all wool sold from Tasmania (all breeds) from the mid-1990s to the current season. As expected, the Tasmanian Merino micron has followed the general trend of the Australian clip, trending lower through the past three decades, although the rate of fall has slowed appreciably in the past decade.

On average the Tasmanian Merino clip has been 1.3 microns finer than the average for the entire Australian Merino clip during the past decade. All other qualities equal, using AWEX MPGs as a guide this should equate to a premium for Tasmanian Merino wool of 12% (noting that this premium has ranged between 50% and 5% as micron premiums and discounts have fluctuated).

One other point to note about Figure 1 is the impact of increased crossbred wool on the average Tasmanian fibre diameter (all breeds). This micron series has been trending higher during the past decade, and is a reminder that simple average fibre diameters (all breeds) can be quite misleading.

Figure 2 shows the proportion of Merino wool sold from Australia and Tasmania, accredited as either ceased mules or non-mulesed by season from 2008-2009 onwards. The current season date runs to the first week of March 2021. Tasmania has been outperforming the Australian clip as a whole with the proportion now rising towards half compared to 15% for the national clip.

Quality schemes are being promoted as platforms by which to satisfy consumer concerns about farm practices, to improve supply chain management and as a means of differentiating wool from a quality perspective. The presence of the schemes raises the question about whether the industry at the farm to saleroom level is doing enough to ensure quality is maintained. In some areas, such as crossbred wool, quality has manifestly declined in the Australian clip during the past decade. The assumption that Australian wool is of better quality than from other regions is not necessarily correct.

Figure 3 compares the proportion of Tasmanian Merino wool and the Australia Merino clip accredited to RWS, by micron for this season to date. Again, Tasmania outperforms the national clip by a country mile. RWS is not the only quality scheme and lots are often accredited to multiple quality schemes. With this in mind Figure 4 repeats the analysis of Figure 3 but looks at the proportion of Merino wool accredited to either or Authentico, RWS and Sustainawool. Tasmania outperforms the national Merino clip, except at the very edges of the fibre diameter distribution where there is little volume of wool.

From a quality perspective the Tasmanian Merino clip is substantially finer than the national clip, has a much higher level of CM-NM and an appreciably higher uptake of quality schemes. The Tasmanians are doing their best to provide a marketing base for their Merino wool.

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What does it mean?

From a marketing perspective the Tasmanian Merino clip is well placed to meet the demand for fine Merino wool which is non-mulesed and accredited to quality schemes. These latter points are being sought out by the supply chain as additional levels of quality in addition to the historic definitions of quality which are a combination of preparation and wool characteristics.

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Key Points

  • The Tasmanian Merino clip has on average been 1.3 micron finer than the national Merino clip during the past decade, which translates using MPGs to a higher price of 12%.
  • Tasmanian levels of CM-NM in their Merino wool dwarf national levels, with some 45% of Merino sales this season to date accredited as CM-NM versus 15% for the national clip.
  • In terms of quality schemes, the Tasmanians have much higher adoption levels than the national Merino clip, with the rates of adoption higher for the finer micron categories.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources:  AWEX, Independent Commodity Services P/L , Mecardo

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