Merino fleece staple strength premiums and discounts


Staple strength is one of the second-tier wool characteristics, after fibre diameter and staple length, influential in the pricing of merino wool, although its influence has waned greatly since the 1990s. With this in mind, this article looks at staple strength premiums and discounts across various merino micron ranges for the past five and ten years.

In this article the five and ten year median price effect of staple strength is looked at for eastern Australian 15, 17, 19 and 21 micron fleece, using 35-39 N/ktx (37) strength fleece as the base. Weekly average prices were used to calculate weekly premiums and discounts, with this data then being used to develop the five and ten year medians shown. Staple length was set at 80 mm for the 15 micron and 90 mm for the remaining categories. The fleece used had no subjective faults and a vegetable matter range of 0% to 1.8%.

Figure 1 shows the five and ten year median discounts and premiums for staple strength for 15 micron 80 mm long merino fleece, with the discounts extending to 10% for sub-20 N/ktx strength and premiums running up to 11-12% for high staple strength levels. Similar spinners style wool sought after by Italian buyers will have achieved greater premiums but they make up a very small section of the market. Figures 2 to 4 repeat the exercise for 17, 19 and 21 micron fleece.

As a general rule, staple strength increases in importance as fibre diameter becomes finer, for combing length wool, and this shows in the staple strength premiums of this article. Low staple strength discounts for 21 micron were greater than for 19 micron, especially for the past five years, which looks out of place. The initial thought was that a mismatch in timing was producing this anomaly but when the 19 micron discounts were restricted to match the availability of 21 micron, low staple strength discounts remained slightly higher for the 21 micron category. Most of this effect (higher discounts for low 21 micron strength wool) took place in 2020-2022.

By 21 micron premiums for high staple strength are effectively non-existent. Another point to note is that as staple strength increases beyond the preferred range of fine merino processors (generally 70 to 90 mm greasy staple length) the impact of staple strength decreases. For 15 micron 100 mm long fleece premiums for 40 N/ktx and higher staple strength (admittedly small volumes) are non-existent. It is a similar story for 17 micron fleece which is 110 mm long.

What does it mean?

Staple strength premiums and discounts are subject to the supply of low tensile strength wool, and the supply of point of break in the middle of the staple. As a consequence, there will be seasons when the price effect of staple strength is quite high, compared to the current season where the effect is minimal. The five and ten year medians allow us to look through these seasonal effects to see what the longer level impact on price is.

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Key Points

  • Staple strength premiums and discounts tend to increase as fibre diameter decreases.
  • Staple strength premiums are negligible for 20 micron and broader merino
  • There is not a great difference between the five and ten year median staple strength premiums and discounts.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: AWEX, ICS Mecardo

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