March was an extraordinary month for the Australian wool industry.
Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) testing volumes were up by more than 25.3 per cent for the month, compared to 2020.
At the same time, our industry's logistics systems are under massive pressure - and buckling under the enormous weight of a well-publicised global shipping slowdown.
Wool dumps and warehouses are bursting at the seams and have zero capacity for incoming wool from growers, as the push-back pressure from reduced export space becomes a reality.
The cost of export freight is skyrocketing, as Australian wool competes against all other global commodities for scarce empty containers and vessel slots.
The wool auction Easter recess could not have come soon enough for all sectors to relieve bottleneck constraints on wool handling and logistics systems and working capital facilities.
Financing our commodity continues to be a major constraint, as wool exporters can not turn over their stocks as per usual due to unprecedented logistics issues.
With only one quarter of the financial year remaining, the wool trade has managed to transact 60,000 more bales through national auctions so far this season compared to the same time in 2020.
This is an amazing effort by all involved, as we have achieved it during a global health pandemic that pushed the industry's resilience to the limit.
It is welcome news, as we are clearing surplus stocks at a healthy and, hopefully, sustainable rate.
If global demand continues at this level for the remainder of this year, we will enter 2022 in very good shape.
But the exception is the coarser crossbred wool category, which continues to build-up in stocks on-farm and in brokers' warehouses.
Surplus stocks and shipping logistics continue to hold back any chance of major price surges in the short to medium term.
But the wool market is certainly cautiously optimistic and exporters report they are seeing regular demand across most categories.
Amazing widespread mid-March rains delivered a perfect new growing season start, kicking things off early.
Autumn lambing is about to start and ewes are "rising" as they confront a beautiful green pick, with paddock dry cover still in place from spring 2020.
Farmers are smiling and could not wish for a better start to the growing season in all regions.
On the downside, the early season soaking rain and sticky weather conditions have provided fly strike challenges.
Some growers have even reported body fly strike on shorn ewes.
So, our advice is to monitor all flocks closely in the coming weeks.
The higher rainfall in many regions also provides new dimensions for on-farm wool preparation standards.
We are seeing issues such as increased dermo and green/yellow water-stained wool, which must be removed from main fleece lines.
Increased care must be given to removing seedy jowls from your main pieces lines, or the trade and other competition will be reduced and leave these wools vulnerable to the topmaking sector. This can result in discounts of about 70-100 cents a kilogram (greasy).
We hope to see many of you at the 2021 Australian Sheep and Wool Show, which is scheduled to be held on July 16-18 in Bendigo, particularly as the event was cancelled last year.
The show provides a great opportunity to learn new ideas and network with industry stakeholders.