Strong prices and a weak rand sent South African wool export earnings soaring to $104 million in the 2001/2002 season, figures from the independent association of wool growers revealed on Thursday.

Cape Wools said that despite a 50 per cent fall in wool output over the past 10 years to around 48 million kg, a weak currency and rising prices pushed export earnings past the 1.1 billion rand mark last season.

"The record earnings can be attributed to the weaker rand and much improved wool prices," Cape Wools said. "The past season saw fierce competition from international primary processors for the declining wool offerings. This pushed wool prices to their highest levels in a decade."

It added most of its export orders came from Europe with Italy leading the way with 24.8 per cent of the total export value, followed by France with 23.1 per cent and Germany with 8.4 per cent.