The shepherds in Uttarakhand will soon get a batch of lambs through the cross-breeding of sheep indigenous to the region with Australian Merino sheep. Australian Merino sheep are known to have the softest and finest wool used for apparel. This cross-breeding was done with an aim to boost the pastoral economy and reduce the country’s import dependence on raw wool.
India’s Wool Industry:
- India is the seventh-largest producer of wool and accounts for nearly 2 to 3% of total world production.
- According to the 20th Livestock Census in 2019, India has the third-largest number of sheep in the world, with 74.26 million sheep under 42 registered breeds. This was a 14.1% increase from the previous census in 2012.
- In India, wool is used to prepare products like carpets, yarn, fabrics and garments for the domestic market and for exporting, especially to the United States and Europe.
- The major wool-producing states in India are Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
- Rajasthan is the largest wool producer and is known for its superior carpet grade Chokla and Magra wool.
Why does India import raw wool?
- Despite India having the third-largest sheep population in the world, the average annual yield per sheep in India was 0.9 kg, as against the world average of 2.4 kg in 2018-19.
- In 2019-20, India produced 40.42 million kg of wool that year, whereas its consumption was at 260.8 million kg.
- Hence, due to this insufficient domestic production, India depends on imports for raw wool, particularly from Australia and New Zealand.
Challenges faced by India’s Wool Industry:
- Low Demand for Indigenous wool: In the last 10 years, wool consumption by the country’s processing units increased by 50%, but the use of indigenous wool fell to almost 10% of the total current sales.
- A shift in Farmer’s Focus: There is a shift in farmer’s focus from wool to meat. For Instance, Telangana promotes the meat-producing Nellore breed through a subsidised sheep distribution scheme, and the breed now comprises 51 percent of the state’s sheep.
- The decline in Pastures: Pastures are diminishing across India with the increase in plantations as well as urbanisation.
- Processing Facilities: The Woollen industry suffers from inadequate and outdated processing facilities. The pre-loom and post-loom facilities are required to be modernized for ensuring quality finished products.
- Low priority of State Governments in the development of the wool sector.
- Lack of Research and development and inadequate marketing facilities and infrastructure.
- Absence of organized marketing and minimum support price system for ensuring remunerative return.
- No educational institute for wool technology resulting in a lack of expertise in the wool sector.