Australian Wool Initiative Young Growers China Tour
Ian Cameron’s account of the 2017 AWI young growers study tour along with 13 wool growers and 2 AWI representatives. The tour focused around meeting buyers and processing facilities near Shanghai including Sunshine Group, Tianyu Wool, Nanjing Wool Market and Xinao Knitwear Development Centre as well as the Nanshan Group in Longkou. It also visited AWI offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai to see research and developments in the use of the fibre and also marketing of woollen products on a global scale.
A highlight was two nights spent with the Nanshan group, operating in textiles, the aluminium industry, finance, aviation, real estate, education, and tourism. The Shandong Nanshan Fabric and Garment Company hosted the group. This is a fully integrated fabric and garment producer from wool purchase through to high end garment production. On the second evening Chairman Zhao Qiang of the Fabric and Garment Company subsidiary hosted a meeting and dinner providing a forum to discuss the future of the wool industry and current trends. It was a great event showcasing the commitment from both parties to the wool industry.
The opportunity to travel to Xinao Textiles was exciting to see developments in the processing of the fabric. Xinao is a world leading worsted spinner of wool which is increasing productive capacity from 60,000 metres spun yarn to 90,000 metres over the next 2 years. Of all processing facilities Xinao are using the newest technology and investing the most into future developments.
A continuing question during the trip was surrounding the quantity of fine/superfine wool being produced (16.5 to 18.5 micron). There are worries that the supply of fibre is too small and this led to discussions regarding the low relative prices for finer wool styles compared to medium wool. Garment manufacturers are seeing a change in consumer preferences to fabrics made from a sustainable, natural fibre. A large growth area for woollen garments is in next to skin and active/sportswear clothing which requires superfine wool for production. At most locations there was a lack of understanding of geographic barriers preventing growers producing different styles of wool. They also wanted to know how long it would take for fine/medium wool growers to transition to the super fine market.
China has invested greatly in capital which can be used for wool processing only. This has led to them committing themselves to the industry as they need Australian Merino wool as much as Australia needs them to buy it. There is potential for a shift of power back to the wool grower as more countries take up wool processing such as Vietnam and India.