Download IWTO Infographic: The Wool Industry Supply Chain
Press Release: IWTO factsheets about wool
Sheep (Ovis aries) were first domesticated 10 000 years ago. They currently number about 1 billion head, in 200 breeds, worldwide. Sheep are shorn of their wool usually once a year. After scouring to remove grease and dirt, wool is carded and combed, then spun into yarn for fabrics or knitted garments. Merino sheep produce up to 18 kg of greasy wool a year.
Wool has natural crimpiness and scale patterns that make it easy to spin. Fabrics made from wool have greater bulk than other textiles, provide better insulation and are resilient, elastic and durable. Fibre diameter ranges from 16 microns in superfine merino wool (similar to cashmere) to more than 40 microns in coarse hairy wools.
Annual Wool production is around 2.1 million tonnes. Australia produces one fifth, while China, New Zealand, Iran, Argentina and the UK each produce more than 50 000 tonnes.
Source: FAO 2009