The weak wool market showed some improvement at the latest New Zealand weekly auction in the South Island yesterday.

The average price for 37-micron crossbred fleece rose 5 cents to $4.15 a kilogram from last week's sale, according to AgriHQ. Finer 28-micron lamb wool increased 15 cents to $4.85/kg, while coarser 30-micron lamb wool fell 15 cents to $4.20/kg, resulting in the lamb wool indicator holding steady for the week, AgriHQ said.

New Zealand is at the tail end of its main sheep shearing season which started in December. Wool prices have started to pick up in recent auctions, although the market remains weaker than this time last year amid lacklustre demand from China, New Zealand's largest export market.

"With wool being in peak supply during March, this week's South Island auction had a strong level of bales on offer," said AgriHQ analyst Sam Laurenson. "This week's sale had 9,835 bales on offer, with 7,988 bales sold. The clearance rate was 81 per cent, up on the season to date but remains below last season's 90 per cent clearance rate for this time of the year."


Next week's wool auction will include about 10,000 bales from the North Island.

Weak wool prices this season are evident in the latest trade data published from Stats NZ today, which showed the value of wool exports slumped 29 per cent to $130 million in the three months to the end of February. For the month of February, wool exports are 45 per cent lower than February last year at $38m, and on an annual basis wool exports in the 12 months through February are 26 per cent below the year earlier at $616m.

The declining value is pushing wool down New Zealand's export commodity rankings, and the fibre is currently ranked the country's 17th most valuable commodity export, down from 14th most valuable at the same time last year.