May 21, 2004
May 21, 2004 -- Wool has the potential to gain much higher market share, as it is the healthiest and most sustainable fiber used in the textile industry. This was the main conclusion of the 73rd Annual Congress of the International Wool Textile Organization (IWTO) held May 11-14, 2004, in Evian, France.
More than 400 delegates from 30 countries representing the primary trading, processing and textile companies discussed during various sessions the necessary steps to be undertaken to increase the market share of wool within the textile fiber market.
Improving communication with consumers was clearly focused as the main target to market and promote the sustainable benefits of wool, as well as the numerous new developments coming out of research and development institutions around the world.
Another major topic was the shift in where wool is processed and made into yarn or fabric. Rita Kourlis Samuelson, international wool marketing director for the American Sheep Industry Association, touched on the topic during her presentation to the international wool industry crowd, noting that much of the customer base for U.S. wool has shifted from the United States to Asia, Europe and Eastern Europe.
?Just a decade ago, most domestically produced wool was consumed by U.S. mills and apparel makers, but many have since gone out of business or have greatly reduced their production,? explained Kourlis Samuelson, who noted that wool mill consumption in the United States has fallen by approximately 68 percent in 5 years from 130 million lbs. in 1997 to 41 million lbs. in 2002. ?We?ve added international buyers and international markets to our portfolio. Although remaining U.S. wool mills are extraordinarily important to U.S. wool producers, as is the large military market, they just can?t consume the amount of wool we produce.?
To illustrate her point of a shift where U.S. wool is processed, Kourlis Samuelson noted the dramatic 311-percent increase in U.S. raw wool exports, from 1,189,790 lbs. in 1998 to 4,883,894 lbs. in 2003. Exports of U.S. wool tops also have increased, from 5,924,507 lbs. in 1999 to 7,619,234 in 2003. While the increase in the amount of U.S. wool tops isn?t as dramatic as those for raw wool, it must be noted that the wool top exported today contains a higher percentage of American wool than tops of the past that contained a higher percentage of Australian wool.
?Our on-going goal is to help U.S. wool suppliers and warehouses replace the customer base they once had in the United States,? Kourlis Samuelson added. ?This is the core of the ASI wool program: Supporting competition for U.S.-produced wool.?
Participating in the largest U.S. delegation to the international body in years were representatives from Pendleton; Anodyne, Inc.; Burlington Industries and Lempriere USA.
IWTO is the international body representing the interests of the world?s wool-textile trade and industry.
Staff contact: Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ext. 29