Australian Alpaca co-operative organising for Chinese market push

Terry Sim, June 8, 2018

Alpaca producers have an eye on the Chinese market.

AUSTRALIAN Alpaca producers have made an important step toward a sustainable fleece industry with a sample fleece sale to a Shanghai processor.

Alpaca producers from three states will next week form Waratah Alpaca Fibre Cooperative, aided by the successful Farming Together program.

Co-op spokesman Mick Williams said the Shanghai processor Pebble Sun paid up to $35 a kilogram for under 16 micron Shear Ultra fleece and tender prices of up to $44/kg are being fielded from other prospective Chinese buyers.

“It’s becoming a bit of an auction with these guys.”

Australian Alpaca producers had previously marketed their fibre individually, but Mr Williams said he could now see a sustainable Alpaca fleece industry was possible.

The Waratah Alpaca Fibre Cooperative expected more than 50 alpaca producers from across NSW, Victoria and South Australia to convene at the Mittagong RSL on June 16.

The meeting also aims to recruit prospective alpaca grower-members for the co-op which last month sent a premium-priced 700kg sample to a Shanghai processor.

The buyer agreed to buy 100kg of each grade – ranging from less than 16 micron to above 36.6 micron – and in all colours, for processing into clothing, carpets and doonas.

“They were sensational,” Mr Williams said.

“They paid for all the transport door-to-door, including the air-freight.

“They paid for all certifications, including a new export code required for raw Alpaca fleece,’ he said.

“And within six hours of receival, they were sending me videos of the fleece processed as skeins. And now they’re asking 10 tonnes of raw fleece each month.”

A regular supply contract has now been sent via the processor’s Sydney-based agent.

Mr Williams said sourcing so much fleece will be a challenge. He said the group has explained seasonality of the clip, adding he hoped to source fleece nationally to satisfy the ongoing order. It is estimated that the Chinese market has unmet demand of 3000 tonnes/year. The Australian alpaca industry only produces around 800 tonne each year, but some breeders had been stockpiling fibre for years.

Mick believes the co-op, and the export sales it secures, will push growth of the national herd beyond the current total of 400,000 alpacas. The Australian Alpaca Association had a goal to lift the herd size to 1 million by 2021.

“We’ve got to shake the hobby tag,” he said.

“The whole idea of the co-op is to give alpaca breeders some confidence and financial sustainability. “This is all about building the national herd.”

Mr Williams is a fourth-generation Merino farmer running 1200 alpacas on 243ha at Mittagong, New South Wales.

“Farming Together provided guidance and mentorship and gave us access to the skills and expertise so that, when it came to forming a co-op, we didn’t reinvent the wheel,” he said.

“It took our cumbersome and clumsy idea and streamlined it, saving us a lot of time along the way. With the program’s assistance we are far more advanced that we would have been if we had tried to do this on our own.”

The Mittagong RSL meeting will start at noon on June 16. Refreshments will be served, please book for catering purposes at 0407 407 618 or [email protected]

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said the Alpaca project has the potential to truly transform a premium-product industry and offers spin-off benefits along the supply chain “from breeders to logistics.”

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program (known as Farming Together) is a two-year, $13.8m initiative from the Australian Government designed to help agricultural groups value-add, secure premium pricing, scale-up production, attract capital investment, earn new markets or secure lower input costs.


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