Quality Wool from Uruguay, the world number 3 Wool Exporter
Uruguayan wool production goes back for more than 100 years with a perfect combination of sun, temperature abundance of rain fall for its nearly nine million sheep.
Farmers look after the animals that graze in a non-stressed environment in the open air and live a healthy outdoor life in a country with no snow, no deserts, no mountains nor extreme weather.
A complete traceability process for sheep is carried out that enables customers a total quality control process from the farms to the quality of the wool tops exported worldwide.
Third largest Wool Exporter
Uruguay is the third largest exporter of wool after Australia and New Zealand and the seventh largest producer of wool.
Uruguay is the only country in the world with 100% of the national cattle herd identified and registered with a system of chips achieving complete traceability.
Uruguay produced about 29 million kilos of wool and its exports of wool and textile products generated $ 265 million at the end of 2014. Each of the leading producers of combed wool in Uruguay export an output of 10.000 tons of first quality dried combed wool tops within the range of 15.1 and 31 microns following requirement of destination markets.
Added to this, Uruguay is the second largest exporter in the world of washed and combed wool. A combination of factors such as wool blends processed, modern industrial facilities together with industry-wide expertise, have positioned Uruguay in the global wool market.
China and Uruguayan Wool
Exported Uruguayan products have an easy entry to China, the first buyer of Uruguayan wool because our country has excellent sanitary conditions and the convenient non-tariff barriers. The mechanism is well established and has seemed to create opportunities to export more quality to that country.
Recent visits of Uruguayan delegation to China have allowed to upgrade the true scope of trade with this giant of world market.
Type of Wool
70% of production is what is called of between 25 and 30 microns, which is the measure of the diameter of the wool. In contrast to Uruguay, Australia produces almost entirely of “fine and very fine wools” with less than 22 or 23 microns and New Zealand produces much thicker yarn of 33 or 34 micron having a use that is not for clothing, but for carpets or interior elements. Uruguay is in between, part of its wool is used to knit clothes for sweaters, coats, and scarves. China takes Uruguayan wool type 26, 27 and 28 microns from the Corriedale breed.
This type of used wool is very popular in China to produce wool for hand knitting. Hand weaving is very popular in China so it is a very important market and the type of Uruguayan wool is ideal for this because it has very good “touch” and results in garments with great quality.
Also Uruguay has been gradually increasing its wool production capacity within the 15-20 micron range as well to respond to the high demand for fine and superfine wool.
The main buyer market for greasy, washed and combed wool in 2014 is China, which garnered 50.5% of textile exports, followed by Germany with 11%, Italy 6% and India at 5%. Since up to 30% of non-perishable dirty wool has also kept a relative high price per unit volume, it makes it easy to be placed anywhere in the world.
The Corriedale breed, which is majority in the country, is well suited producing up to 12 kilos in natural grazing mode. Among many others, the Australian Merino are smaller animals and less resistant to our climate due to their leg sensitivity but they have more valuable wool.
Sustainable Wool Production
The production of wool is natural renewable and sustainable in harmony with the environment. All animals and pastures are checked 2 or 3 times a week and shearing is done every year.
At production level there are strict controls on the use of pesticides and specific pollutants to preserve the natural virtues of the fiber, eliminating chemicals that would alter their characteristics and properties.
The wool is washed from the farms own water supply system coming from rain water reservoirs avoiding water from rivers. The wool scouring process is performed only with organic and biodegradable detergents.
The wool grease is a natural byproduct of the wool and is extracted by the water left after scouring. This grease is then refined without chemicals to produce lanolin a raw material for the pharmaceutical industry.
The waste is biologically treated in aerobic and anaerobic lagoons and then the water irrigates the field plantations.
There are small, medium to large domestic producers located in areas that are less adapted to agriculture.
The social impact has given more labor to rural farms. Shearing involves 600 companies with more than 6,000 employees and the freight and storage contributes to a huge social importance. In the last years there has been a much better market integration of these movements including training of the people, family projects and educational initiatives in the communities.
Local Wool Production
Manos Del Uruguay is a social non-profit organization founded in 1968, which defends and promotes Uruguayan identity formed by artisanal production, distributed throughout Uruguay, whose main objectives are to create and develop sources of work for women in the countryside to provide opportunities and enhanced craftsmanship and artisans.
All items made and sold have an identification mark with the signing of the artisan who made it. Each piece is unique and it’s location where it has been made.
Manos Del Uruguay is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO – World Fair Trade Organization), which operates in 70 countries and gathers more than 350 organizations committed to 100% fair trade.
Plenty of wool producers and exporters will be present during the 15 days of Expo Prado (September 9 – 21, 2015) in Montevideo showing how the continuous wool production is striving for excellence in Uruguay.
Mary Ann Thompson