July 15, 2004
July 15, 2004 -- Wool could potentially gain a much higher market share in the textile industry as it is the healthiest and most sustainable fiber. That 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 what steps could be taken to increase wool's market share within the textile fiber market.
Improving communications with consumers was identified as the main marketing and promotional means. Also meriting mention were numerous developments coming out of research institutions around the world.
Another major topic was the shift in wool processing, or where wool is processed and made into fabric or yarn. American Sheep Industry Association International Wool Marketing Director Rita Kourlis Samuelson touched on the topic during her presentation, noting that most of the U.S. wool customer base 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," Kourlis Samuelson explained. "Although remaining U.S. wool mills are extraordinarily important to U.S. wool producers, as is the large military market, they just cannot consume the amount of wool we produce."
To illustrate her point, 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 have also increased, from 5,924,507 lbs. in 1999 to 7,619,234 in 2003. Kourlis Samuelson said that while the increase in the amount of U.S. wool tops is not as dramatic as those for raw wool, it must be noted that 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.