Record shipment of alpaca fleece to China signals new industry for Australia

ABC News   
By: Gavin Coote
Photo: Courtesy of Alpaca Culture
 
Original content from ABC News.
        
Record volumes of alpaca fleece are being shipped to China in what is hoped will set the industry up as a major new arm of Australian agriculture.

A regular fixture of bed-and-breakfasts, wineries and boutique hobby farms, the long-necked animal is more likely to be associated with the cottage industry than big-scale farming.

But alpaca farmers from across the country are banding together to ramp up their herd sizes and meet burgeoning demand in Asia.

Producers from across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have this month agreed to set up a co-operative, which will band together to fuel emerging farmers.

A deal with a Chinese manufacturer which wants the product for fine clothing, doonas and carpet, will see a record 10 tonnes of raw fleece shipped out of Australia each month.

Alpacas shed cottage industry tag

Peter Harford made the switch from working in IT to alpaca farming in the Macarthur region, south-west of Sydney about a decade ago.

While long seen as the domain of retirees and hobby farmers, Mr Harford said it was now becoming a fully-fledged industry.

"That's the exciting thing about the industry at the moment, there's always been people around to sell fleece to but they've never really offered you a really good price," Mr Harford said.

"With the introduction of the co-op now, the opportunity now is for people to be able to sell their fleece.

Read the rest of this story and view the photos at ABC News.