Wool is obtained from the fleece of sheep, muskoxen, goats, rabbits, camelids, and other animals that possess long hair. The Merino wool fiber is considered the best quality, especially with regards to textile production. Animals are normally sheered annually and their fleece is taken to industries for processing. The main use of wool is in the production of clothing. However, it is also used to make carpets, upholstery, saddle cloths, and horse rugs. In 2016-2017, the top wool producers were Australia, China, the United States, and New Zealand.
The world’s top wool producing countries
Australia is the highest wool producing country in the world. It is responsible for the production of 25% of the world’s wool. According to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Australia, the amount of wool produced in Australia in the year 2015-2016 was worth approximately $3 billion. The highest production in Australia is brought in by two states: New South Wales and Victoria. Australia’s high wool production is related to the high number of sheep bred. Additionally, Australia is also among the largest suppliers of wool used for apparel in the world. Therefore, the nation strives to meet its worldwide demand as much as it possibly can.
One major reason for the high wool production in China is the political and economic importance that is placed on it by the ethnic minorities who live in the pastoral region. In some of the districts in this region, wool is the major source of income. The second reason why China produces about 18% of the world’s wool is its significance in the textile and clothing industries in the country. In fact, China is currently the world’s largest and 2nd largest exporter of clothing and textiles respectively. China also has very large farms for sheep to graze on.
In 2016, the United States produced 25.7 million pounds of wool. The top wool producing states are Texas, Colorado, California, Utah, and Wyoming. Although the United States produces 17% of the world's wool, its production has been gradually decreasing since the mid-1940s. The decrease is as a result of the invention of the synthetic fibers. Hence, most of the US wool is currently sold in form of raw fleece wool. The major competitors of the US with regard to wool are New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand is the fourth largest producer of wool in the world. It contributes 11% of the world’s wool due to the high number of sheep that it possesses. In New Zealand, there are 6 sheep for every one resident. Most of the wool in the country is sold by auction and the rest of it is sold to private buyers and individual consumers. New Zealand is known to produce high quality of wool.
How does one judge the quality of wool?
The quality of wool varies depending on two major factors; the diameter of the fiber and its fineness. Other quality factors are strength, length, contaminants, uniformity, and color. High quality wool is normally used to process clothing. Low grades can produce upholstery, blankets, and carpets among other items.