How can India’s wool sector be revived

Source: Down To Earth

Introduction

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:
  1. India is the seventh-largest producer of wool and accounts for nearly 2 to 3% of total world production.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  1. 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.
  2. In 2019-20, India produced 40.42 million kg of wool that year, whereas its consumption was at 260.8 million kg.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The decline in Pastures: Pastures are diminishing across India with the increase in plantations as well as urbanisation. 
  4. Processing Facilities: The Woollen industry suffers from inadequate and outdated processing facilities.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.
  5. Low priority of State Governments in the development of the wool sector.
  6. Lack of Research and development and inadequate marketing facilities and infrastructure.
  7. Absence of organized marketing and minimum support price system for ensuring remunerative return.
  8. No educational institute for wool technology resulting in a lack of expertise in the wool sector.  
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