Download IWTO Infographic: The Wool Industry Supply Chain
Press Release: IWTO factsheets about wool (updated version 2019)
Sheep (Ovis aries) were first domesticated 10,000 years ago. They currently number about 1.163 billion head, in more than 500 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. There is a great variety to wool production, depending on country and environment, which makes it difficult to generalize about wool. On average a sheep will produce a fleece weighing 4-6 kg each year. However certain merino sheep can produce up to 18 kg per year of raw wool, or “greasy” wool, as the industry calls it.
Wool has a natural crimp 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 as well as readily recyclable and biodegradable. Fibre diameter ranges from 16 microns in superfine merino wool (similar to cashmere) to 40 microns and higher in coarser wools.
Annual global wool production is around 2.1 million tonnes (greasy). Australia produces nearly 25%, China 16%, New Zealand 10%, and the CIS/Russian Federation states 10%.
Source: IWTO Market Information (Edition 12, 2016)