Although wool prices have eased slightly since the record levels fetched at the opening sale of the season, the market has maintained its higher price levels. Analysts are positive about the prospects for the rest of the season and say prices are underpinned by solid demand, particularly from China. National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia executive director Chris Wilcox recently visited nine wool mills in China.

He said the ongoing investment in machinery and expansion by some of the wool combers and spinners was “a hugely encouraging vote for the future for wool”. Wilcox said another significant trend was the increase in demand for fine and superfine Merino wool for use in the growing next-to-skin casual wear market. “A number of mills commented on this growth and how this is changing their purchase requirements,” he said. At the recent Nanjing Wool Market Conference held in Tongxiang Chinese mills also expressed confidence in wool.

The focus of the conference was more on productivity, quality and export growth and not on the high wool prices. This contrasted with previous conferences where raw wool prices often became the main focus.

Animal welfare is becoming a big issue for consumers. In the UK a sheep race at a country festival was scrapped after animal rights campaigners complained that it was “cruel” to the animals. The animal rights group PETA has launched a new campaign urging people not to buy wool, alleging that the wool industry is rife with cruelty and causes sheep undue stress in the shearing process. – Cape Wools SA

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Wool market 1,2% higher