Australia's wool production next year is forecast to increase to 355 million kilograms (mkgs) greasy - 3.1 percent above the 2010-2011 clip - as growers retain sheep and reinvest in sheep and wool. Although industry analysts believe the nation's flock and wool clip have turned the corner, they believe any significant production increase in wool, especially of Merino wool, would not come until the numbers of ewes increased and more were joined to wool rams.
The National Wool Production Forecasting Committee said this week its final estimate for 2010-2011 was a clip of 345 mkgs greasy, an increase of five mkgs on its March forecast and a 0.6 percent increase on 2009-2010's 343 mkgs.
The committee attributed the 2011-2012 forecast increase to a 4 percent rise in opening sheep numbers from 68 million last year and a consequent increase in the number of sheep to be shorn.
Landmark agent, Kevin Beaton, said it would take up to two years before Merino ewe numbers would increase enough to have a significant impact on wool production levels. Growing industry confidence was indicated by buoyant Merino ram sales recently, but he said the Merino ewe numbers were still "not out there."
Elders' wool manager at Ballarat, Elliot Lindley, said he also was not expecting significant increases in wool supply for three to four years.
"Wool prices would have to remain buoyant and retention of ewe numbers would have to increase year-on-year. We need good seasons, good springs and we need good lambing," commented Lindley.
"Ewes have to be bred to feed all sides of the industry, and that is starting to happen again; we've turned the corner," continued Lindley of the industries critical stage where Merino ewes had to be bred to Merino rams to maintain the valuable wool ewe base.
Committee chairman, Russell Pattinson, said there was strong evidence of grower intent to reinvest in sheep and wool.
"The most recent joint Meat Livestock Australia/Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) grower survey showed that over 90 percent of growers intend to maintain or increase sheep numbers in 2011-2012, while the sheep turnoff and slaughter levels are substantially down," he said.
In addition, reports from around the country indicate that higher than average lambing and weaning rates are expected in many regions.
The committee also confirmed that in 2010-2011 reduced volumes of superfine Merino wool were being produced, and there was increased production of strong Merino and crossbred wool types.
A full report of the latest forecasts is available on the AWI website at www.wool.com/forecasts .
Reprinted in part from Stock and Land, Australia