Peru cashes in on its large population of alpacas
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The Andes is the world's highest mountain range outside of Asia. It has not only given birth to the ancient Inca culture, but also to a wealth of regional food products, like potatoes, maca, and its signature animal: the Alpaca. Over in Peru, the Andes winds along its entire terrain from north to south, and the land boasts a proud amount of alpaca fiber every year. Next we take a look at how important the alpaca is to the local people in the region.
Alpaca fiber has been catching on in the world's fabric market, which can already be seen in some clothing brands. Peru boasts ninty percent of the world's population of alpacas. Traditionally, the animal provided locals with food, a source of fuel, clothing and transportation. Nowadays, it is loved by people for its amusing appearance, and valued by locals for being a vital source of export income.

Living on the highland area of the Andes, which is more than 3000 meters above sea level, alpacas have longer, brighter and more elastic hairs than sheep, therefore gaining popularity with consumers. The alpaca fiber products from Peru are also dyed with pigments extracted from the roots of plants or seeds, giving it a more natural feel. The hairs of an alpaca cub are of superior quality for being the most soft and pure.

"Peru's alpaca hair is very well-known around the world, because its has good natural colors, its soft, and feels good when you touch it," said merchant Jose Carlos Campana Palomino.

But separating the good hairs from the bad is a demanding job, which can only be done by very experienced female workers.

Peru's alpaca fiber industry has developed to the point where they even have their own local brands, such as Kuna and Sol.

"Our export volume is big. Once the apalca fiber is produced and packaged, it's on it's way to being expored. We've just filled two containers of products for export, weighing up to 20 tons. We all use full container loads," said ," said merchant Jose Saca Quispe.

Each alpaca produces three to five kilos of hair every year, which is worth 3,400 yuan annually. The promising income has given rise to a number of alpaca hair trade associations.

Currently, fabric from alpaca hairs are exported to the US, Europe and Asia. China is Peru's largest trading partner and country of export, and alpaca hair has been purchased by the Chinese market for some time now. But local merchants hope the fiber products from this lovely animal can be more popular in the future, so that they can gain a bigger share of the vibrant Chinese market.

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