cashmere industry


cashmere industry
Thanks largely to the grasslands that cover much of Inner Mongolia and the vast western hinterland of Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang, China is the world’s largest producer of cashmere, the fine wool produced by goats and specifically associated with one breed native to the Himalayas. In China cashmere is sometimes dubbed ‘soft gold’. Many goat breeders made their fortunes in the 1990s, when the country’s cashmere industry mushroomed to meet world demand. More than 2,000 cashmere factories had sprouted across China. At its highest point in 2000, one kilo of cashmere sold for 530 yuan (US$63.85).
Since the late 1990s, however, cashmere prices have fallen dramatically because of unfair competition, a lack of co-ordination, and poor management. And raw cashmere now garners less than 100 yuan (US$12.04) per kilo.
To make matters worse, environmentalists in China complained that allowing goats to graze wild was having a disastrous ecological impact on the grasslands, leaving them barren. From the point of view of the Chinese government, however, the cashmere industry employs too many workers to let the industry go under or shrink dramatically. The St Edenweiss Cashmere Fashion Trading Co. Ltd, for example, one of the most profitable companies in the Chinese industry, employs a staff of nearly 10,000 in various branches across the nation. Each year it sells 1.2 million pieces of cashmere to native and foreign consumers, and in Beijing alone it clears 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) per year in profits. In recent years, therefore, the government has taken steps to solve the dilemma and has instituted a new policy that encourages herdsmen to raise their goats in folds and fences, rather than allowing them to roam free. This may offer a compromise between saving nature and satisfying the demand for cashmere, which remains one of the most favoured textiles of Western designers like Laura Biagiotti and Giorgio Armani.
PAOLA ZAMPERINI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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