Rains which have "saved crops from failing" in some parts of
eastern Australia did not extend far enough to revive pasture conditions,
undermining hopes for an end to a long-term slide in national wool production.
Rainfall this month in Queensland and northern New South Wales,
where a dearth of moisture had raised concerns for crops entering spring, "boosted
wheat yields and, in some instances, saved crops from failing", Australia &
New Zealand Bank said.
However, the precipitation "did not push south into key wool
producing areas", some of which have received less than half the normal
rainfall expected for August, the bank said.
This has raised "some small doubts" over pasture condition,
and in turn over the ability of wool production in Australia, the top exporter,
to recover from a record low.
"Rainfall in the next month will be critical for a strong
rebound in national fleece weights in 2014-15," which began last month.
'Headwind for wool'
A rise in fleece weights is crucial if Australia is to
maintain wool output, with the country's sheep flock back in decline, after a rebuild
in numbers in 2010 and 2011.
In 2013-14, the flock shrank by 2.5m head according to ANZ,
Abares, the official commodities bureau, putting the decline at 3.8m head.
The decline "creates a headwind for wool production in
2014-15," ANZ analyst Paul Deane said.
However, improved pasture conditions earlier this year had
created hope for improved fleece weights.
Indeed, weights "should be notably higher" in the
July-to-September quarter, compared with the same period last year, whatever
"What is at risk, should spring pasture growth disappoint,
is the potential for lower fleece weights from sheep shorn in the first half of
2015," Mr Deane said.
The bank has forecast wool production stabilising at 345m
kilogrammes, on a greasy basis, in 2014-15.
Abares foresees output of 330m kilogrammes which, on its
data, represents a fall of 10m kilogrammes.