In recent weeks Mecardo has published articles, using excellent information from the IWTO, showing where the supply of RWS accredited wool stems from internationally and also the estimated fibre diameter distribution of RWS accredited merino wool, also from an international perspective. A reader has asked Mecardo to simply show the proportion of wool produced by country which is RWS accredited, which we do in this article.

Earlier articles outline the IWTO information (Wool quality schemes – an international perspective), used as the base for this and the earlier articles and also acknowledge some caveats (International RWS merino micron distribution) with regard to the necessary assumptions required to fill gaps in data.

Table 1 takes IWTO volume data for selected Third-Party Assurance (Quality) Schemes and expresses them as a proportion of the total wool production by country, which is also taken from the IWTO. The data is for last season (2020-21) and shows the South African clip leading the way with 23.5% accredited to RWS. Argentina and Uruguay follow with 10% and 11.2% respectively of their clip accredited to RWS. Note that ZQ, which will apply mainly to New Zealand, does not have any country specific data. SustainaWool and Authentico apply only to the Australian clip. In Australia some 1.4% of the total clip last season was accredited to RWS.

The next step is to narrow the focus down to merino wool. For Australia and South Africa which are well served with institutions for maintaining market transparency (AWEX and AWTA in Australia, Cape Wools in South Africa) this is a straight forward process. Data for merino clips in the other countries requires help from friends and some guesswork/assumptions.

In Table 2 the IWTO selected quality scheme volumes are assumed to apply wholly to merino clips. In addition ZQ volumes have been added to the RWS volumes and assumed to apply to New Zealand. This is not correct as some wool has been contracted in Australia under the ZQ scheme, but the assumption here is that it is only a minor part of the ZQ volume. From this perspective New Zealand is the outright leader in quality scheme adoption. South Africa comes a second with some 36.7% of the merino clip accredited to RWS and the two South American countries follow with 25% in Argentina and 18% in Uruguay. The New Zealand clip is assumed to be fully accredited. As mentioned above there will be some Australian volume in the New Zealand data hence the 100.5% level of accreditation. Australia, which accounts for three quarters of the merino production from these countries, had 1.9% accredited to RWS, 6.6% to SustainaWool and 3% to Authentico last season.

We have Australian data for the current season to date which shows the merino proportion of wool accredited to RWS is 3% (clean basis), for non-mulesed SustainaWool 2.7% and for Authentico 4.5%. The premiums, particularly for RWS but also for the other quality schemes albeit at a less spectacular level, are doing their job of drawing more volume in. Keep in mind that many lots in Australia are accredited to multiple quality schemes. For the season to date some 6.4% (farm bales) of the Australian merino clip sold at auction has been accredited to the selected quality schemes in this article and have had CM-NM status.

What does it mean?

Time will tell if these third party assurance schemes become a fixed part of the wool supply chain. As it stands at the moment the big Australian merino clip is well behind the other southern hemisphere merino producers in terms of quality scheme adoption.

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Key Points

  • In merino terms, New Zealand is the main adopter of quality schemes.
  • South Africa comes second in the proportion of the merino clip accredited to one of the selected quality schemes (RWS).
  • Argentina and Uruguay are next in line with 25% and 18% respectively accredited to RWS.

Click on figure to expand

Click on figure to expand

Data sources: 

IWTO, Cape Wools, FLA, AWEX, Delta Animal Production Consultants, ICS

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