By Boyd Champness

CHINAS belated release of its wool quotas at the beginning of December has finally filtered through to the Australian wool market with the eastern market indicator price rising to 599¢/kg last week.

The energetic competition, long absent from the market, was spread across all micron categories instead of being confined to the finer diameters as in the past, according to the Stock and Land. Pass-in rates were a low 5-7%,

Itochu southern region manager Chris Kelly told the newspaper that the flying start to the year was due to extra overseas demand and concerns about the quality of wool available in coming sales.

Buying for Chinese orders provided the main competition, but European buyers were reported to be more active than in the past few months.

Wool prices averaged 564¢/kg in the first half of this current financial year (which ends on 30 June), with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) tipping a 586¢/kg average for the remaining six months to drag the mean average to 575¢/kg for the year.

The forecast of 575¢/kg is 5% higher than last years average, when the market averaged 550¢/kg, but is well down on the 733¢/kg in 1997-98 and 670¢/kg in 1996-97.