January 11, 1999
News Release 99-008


World wool production declined steadily during 1993-97, says the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in its report Industry and Trade Summary: Wool and Related Animal Hair.

The ITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding agency, recently released the report as part of an ongoing series of reports on thousands of products imported into and exported from the United States. Other highlights from the report follow.

-- The United States registered a substantial trade deficit in wool and other related animal hair in every year during 1993-97. Wool accounted for over 85 percent of the total value of U.S. imports and nearly 50 percent of the value of U.S. exports of these products in 1997. In that year, U.S. imports of wool exceeded U.S. wool exports by $146 million.

-- In 1997, the value of shorn wool grown in the United States was $45 million. U.S. wool imports were valued at $154 million in 1997, and exports were valued at $8 million. Imports of wool accounted for over 60 percent of U.S. consumption (by quantity) in 1997, and Australia was the principal supplier. In the United States, most sheep are kept mainly for the production of lambs for meat, or are dual-purpose breeds kept for the production of both wool and meat. The United States accounted for less than 1 percent of world wool production in 1997.

-- World wool production declined from 3.8 billion pounds to 3.2 billion pounds during 1993-97, reflecting the decline in the global sheep population in most of the major sheep-producing countries. Other factors contributing to the decline in wool production include depressed world wool markets and changing fashion trends.

-- Australia is the largest world producer and exporter of wool. Other major wool-producing countries include New Zealand, China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Uruguay, Argentina, and the Republic of South Africa.

-- While most sheep breeds produce wool, each breed's wool fibers are unique with respect to the color, length, diameter and density of the wool fiber. The most valuable wool fibers are derived from sheep that are raised primarily for their fleece, such as the Merino. There are many end uses for wool. Some wool is spun into woolen and worsted yarns and manufactured into finished apparel products such as suits and sweaters. Other wool is made into carpets, furniture upholstery, and other nonapparel goods.

The foregoing information is from the ITC report Industry and Trade Summary: Wool and Related Animal Hair (USITC Publication 3145, December 1998).

ITC Industry and Trade Summary reports include information on product uses, U.S. and foreign producers, and customs treatment of the products being studied. They analyze the basic factors affecting trends in consumption, production, and trade of the commodities, as well as factors bearing on the competitiveness of the U.S. industry in domestic and foreign markets.

This report will be available for downloading from the ITC's Internet server at www.usitc.gov. A printed copy may be requested by calling 202-205-1809 or by writing the Office of the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20436. Requests may also be faxed to 202-205-2104.

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