The article 'AWTA volumes October 2021' published today on Mecardo, looks at the latest AWTA core test volumes and the uneven impact of Western Australian merino wool supply across micron categories and different times of the year. This article pursues the theme further.

Wool production in Australia covers regions from central Queensland to Tasmania across to Western Australia, which is quite a range of environments. For the purpose of this article these regions have been split into three – Western Australia, eastern pastoral and eastern non-pastoral. The eastern pastoral region is roughly northern South Australia, western NSW and Queensland. While splitting the eastern states into pastoral and non-pastoral is somewhat arbitrary, the fibre diameter of merino production from the two regions has consistently differed by 1-2 microns since the mid-1990s.

Figure 1 shows the average merino fibre diameter from the three regions used in the article. The eastern non-pastoral has the finest merino clip, followed by Western Australia with the eastern pastoral region having the broadest merino clip. Over the past decade the Western Australian merino clip has averaged 0.6 micron broader than the eastern non-pastoral while the pastoral clip has averaged 1.4 micron more than the non-pastoral clip.

In Figure 2 the volume of merino wool sold at auction during the past year is shown in clean terms, broken up by micron and the three regions. The 18 to 20 micron categories are the core micron categories for the Australian merino clip, with 17 and 21 micron the next categories of importance. These five micron categories account for 90% of the Australian merino clip.

The relative contribution of each region to each micron category for the merino supply (auction sales), during the past year, is shown in Figure 3. The micron categories run from 12 through 27 micron, keeping in mind 90% of the clip is provided by the 17 to 21 micron categories.

For 16 micron and finer the eastern non-pastoral region dominates supply – this is where change in the supply of fine merino wool takes place. For the broader side of the merino clip (20 micron and broader), while the eastern non-pastoral region is still the main supplier of wool, the other two regions make substantial contributions to the merino clip. The importance here is that what happens in the drier eastern pastoral region and also Western Australia can have a big impact on the supply of broader merino wool.

What does it mean?

Changes in the supply of different merino micron categories depend on seasonal conditions in different regions, muddied by the transfer of sheep between regions. The simple rule, though, for fine merino supply is to focus on the higher rainfall eastern regions in Australia. For broad merino wool (20 micron and broader) understanding changes in supply is more complex, as it requires a focus on both the eastern pastoral and non-pastoral zones and Western Australia.

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Key Points

  • The three regions used in this article have maintained markedly different average merino fibre diameter, which means they have a different effect on changes in supply between micron categories.
  • The eastern non-pastoral zone dominates the supply of 16 micron and finer wool – this is where changes in supply come from.
  • For 20 micron through 24 micron (merino) the eastern non-pastoral zone contributes 40-50% of the supply, so the other two regions can have a big impact on supply.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: AWEX, ICS, AWTA, Mecardo

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