American Wool Council News
March 31, 2005
March/April 2005 -- Meeting during the convention, the American Sheep Industry Association's (ASI) American Wool Council (AWC) was brought up-to-date on several program activities and also learned about a new, fast-growing market.
Matt Mole of Vermont Organic Fibers presented information on the growing and expanding industries of organics in the United States and the increasing demand for organic textiles including wool. Growth of organics in the United States has increased by nearly 20 percent during each of the past seven years, from $3.5 billion to more than $10.3 billion in sales in 2003. Nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population has purchased something organic, with conventional groceries accounting for approximately 60 percent of the organic sales.
The organic fiber market is one of the fastest-growing sectors in organics and resulted in more than $85 million of sales in 2003. Wool clothing, bedding products and child/infant wear are all being sold in boutiques, as well as large-scale clothing outlets, including brand name clothiers, such as Patagonia, Timberland, Maggie's Functional Organics and Fox River.
A 2002 survey found most producers to be small- and niche-market oriented. Hindering expansion of certified organic sheep production are effective parasite control and the requirement for sheep to be born and raised in an organic system. A one-time herd inclusion rule for sheep, which is possible for dairy products, is needed to help reduce the time for production of certified organic wool.
The demand is growing in the United States for organic wool, and unless production increases and an efficient marketing infrastructure is developed, international sources will continue to be utilized to help meet the increasing demand.
The council was updated on the following:
- The council voted to purchase licensing rights for the use of the AWEX-ID (Australian Wool Exchange Industry Description) program in the United States. This description will be used to identify non-objective wool characteristics of U.S. wool to assist in a language common throughout the international marketplace.
- David Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor and extension economist at Texas A&M University, presented findings from a study on "Wool Price Differences by Origin, Class and Preparation," comparing U.S. and Australian wool prices. This study is limited by the availability and accuracy of historical information, but shows that U.S. wool has as high as a 30-percent discount from Australian wool, likely due to wool volume, preparation and available classing information. The study also showed price differences due to wool preparation. Data-to-data suggests that main fleece lines from Table Skirted & Classed (TSC) wool obtained a 23.5-percent premium over Bellies Out Untied (BOU) wool. For the total return to the grower, TSC wool achieved, on average, an 8.4-percent premium over BOU wool.
- The AWC discussed equipment in place to test U.S. wool characteristics to enable producers to better market their wool. Currently, there are five grab samplers active in production areas to identify the quality of wool for marketing purposes. The recently purchased FOSS Group NIRSystem (Near-Infrared Spectroscopy) will reduce time and cost of wool testing. It is expected to be operational by the end of 2005.
- Marketing efforts of the AWC continue with the sponsoring of the National Make It Yourself With Wool (MIYWW) contest. Marie Lehfeldt, MIYWW program coordinator, presented the success of the program, which encourages the use of wool fabrics in home clothing design.