American Sheep Industry Well Represented at IWTO Congress
May 12, 2017

Bringing together 250-plus wool industry professionals from around the world - representing all stages of the wool pipeline - the International Wool Textile Organization Congress concluded May 5 in Harrogate, United Kingdom.

In addition to staff from the American Sheep Industry Association, U.S.-based representatives of several wool exporters and a textile mill were on hand for three days of meetings about the future of the wool industry. Anodyne, Burlington Industries/ITG, Chargeurs Wool, Keese International and Lempriere were all represented "across the pond" during discussions on everything from sustainability to wool sheep welfare to biosecurity. Sessions on market trends, innovations and technology, British wool farming, wool recycling, wool in interiors and more formed the basis of networking, dialogue and exchange.

As compared to a year ago, prices in U.S. dollar terms are much higher for wool 19 micron and finer (the finer the wool the larger percentage increase). Wools between 19.5 and 22 microns are stronger while medium wools (23 to 26 microns) are around the same. Decreases have been seen in 28 and coarser wools so far this season.

Animal welfare standards and industry sustainability dominated the conversation. National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia Executive Director Chris Wilcox - who authors six issues of the Wool Journal for ASI each year - offered the following outlook in the IWTO Wool Review: "The challenge for all in the wool industry in the years ahead will be to ensure that wool competes based on value rather than volume. It will be important to defend and retain wool's presence in the core products of men's business wear, women's overcoats, tufted and woven carpets and rugs, and knitwear. We will also need to secure growth in active leisure wear and regain presence in women's wear."

The call to compete on value versus volume is important in the American wool industry - which accounts for just 2 percent of the world's greasy wool production. Although the American wool clip is small by some standards, it offers unique characteristics that appeal to international buyers. Known for its loftiness, American wool is often blended with other wool to add bulk to finished products.

"Being part of the discussions of the world wool processing, manufacturing and production industries, as well as making connections with key leaders, benefits the American wool industry," said ASI Director of Wool Marketing Rita Kourlis Samuelson.