Which are the top 10 wool producing countries? Wool is an essential textile fiber that has been used across the world for centuries. It is a natural and biodegradable resource, making it one of the most sought-after materials in many industries.
As such, it comes as no surprise that wool production around the world has grown to be worth more than $30 billion annually.
But which countries are producing the most wool? Let’s take a look at the top 10 largest wool producing countries in the world.
It is no surprise that wool has been a popular commodity for over 10,000 years. Originally being processed and worn during the Stone Age, its use has since spanned the globe in various forms.
Great demand for this extraordinary material meant that countries, such as those in Europe, would import sheep from other areas of the world to meet it.
In spite of its rich history, many still remain unaware of where all this woolly produce comes from.
Nevertheless, advanced fiber-producing capabilities have enabled farmers across renowned regions like New Zealand, Patagonia and Australia to continue satisfying world’s ongoing appetite for quality wool today.
This means that there is no shortage in supply and this incredible fiber will continue to be one of the premier materials used around the world.
China – 333,624 Tones – Wool Producing Countries
In a remarkable feat, China has risen to become the foremost country in terms of wool production.
After having remained second in production for many years, their output in 2020 was an astounding 333,624 tones of wool, accounting for nearly 19% of the global clip! The impressive figures are evidence of China’s dedication to its textile industry and large sheep farms that span across much of its countryside. Interestingly, despite being a leader in production, China is also one of the top importing countries when it comes to wool. In fact, recent records show that they imported over $1.5 billion worth of wool products last year with more than 40% coming from Australia – whom they dethroned just a few years ago as the world’s leading producer. It’s no wonder then that they have achieved such significant success in this industry!
Australia – 283,794 Tones – Wool Producing Countries
Australia may not top the list of global wool producers, but it still holds considerable influence in the wool market. Thanks to the 71.6 million sheep shorn across the country besides the Northern Territory in 2021-22, Australia is far and away the world’s largest exporter of wool. Rightly so; its perfect climate means Australia is ideally suited for Merino Sheep rearing, as evidenced by the stellar fine Merino wool they produce that is much sought after around the world. This shows a bright future ahead for investors in this commodity, which could be especially useful post-pandemic to stimulate economic growth.
3. New Zealand – 151,192 Tonnes
Since the 1950s, New Zealand has enjoyed a formidable presence in global wool production, and this was all due to a dramatic increase in sheep numbers in that very year.
The Korean War had sparked an increased demand for such products from the US itself, leading to New Zealand profiting immensely by tripling its wool costs overnight.
This subsequently led to an astonishing number of 70 million sheep present on its farms during the late-1900s.
Unfortunately, such growth could not remain reflected forever, and with till 2020, the number stands at around 26 million- having been more than halved since this record figure.
Additionally, many of these sheep are sold as meat instead of using their wool, further contributing to the gradual decrease in wool production today.
4. Turkey – 79,754 Tonnes – Wool Producing Countries
Turkey is known for its important textile and clothing industry, and wool is one of the leading fibers used in this market.
In 2020, Turkey’s production of wool reached a high point with 79,754 tonnes produced (equivalent to 4% of the global production).
With more than 35,000 textile companies involved in the local wool industry throughout all stages of the processing and production process, it provides many jobs for individuals throughout the country.
This industry has seen steady growth since 2009 and is projected to continue increasing in coming years as Turkey’s presence in world garment exports remains strong.
5. United Kingdom And Northern Ireland – 70,967 Tonnes
The United Kingdom has a long and rich history, especially when it comes to wool production. Starting with the import of sheep from the Middle East during Medieval England, wool quickly become a major industrial player that led the country on its path of growth throughout the 13th – 15th centuries.
This was further boosted by wars such as The Hundred Year War, which allowed skilled weavers to arise in the region, creating some of the best cloth producers in the world.
Today, there is no shortage of passionate farmers either: roughly 45,000 sheep farmers are found around the UK and Northern Ireland, tending to 34 million sheep that produce 70,000 tonnes of wool per year.
So although centuries have passed since its beginnings in Medieval England, the UK’s commitment to growing their woolen industry hasn’t waned one bit.
6. Morocco – 58,839 Tonnes – Wool Producing Countries
Wool is a centuries-old commodity that plays a vital role in the national economy of Morocco.
Many industries within the country, such as clothing production and traditional carpets, rely heavily on wool. As a result, the nation’s wool production has seen consistent growth since 1977, when it produced 11000 tonnes of wool that year.
It now produces more than 5 times that amount, with less than 60 000 tonnes being churned out.
Interestingly, this domestic demand is so high that Morocco does not feature prominently on the list of nations with the most wool exports – it prefers to keep most of its production for internal use.
7. Iran – 58,372 Tonnes
Despite the potential of Iranian wool and the vast amounts of wool produced, the industry is often overlooked in favor of more profitable sheep related products. This is because regional issues, such as water shortages causing difficulty in proper wool washing and sheep being primarily used for their meat, have hindered its production.
Despite these obstacles, Iran still manages to produce three percent of all global wool production- much of which goes towards the handloom weaving present throughout the region.
Moreover, due to its thickness and quality, it is ideal for creating exclusive handmade carpets that buyers from around the globe seek out.
These pieces are a testament to how much can be achieved despite various challenges faced by this industry.
8. Russia – 51,660 Tonnes
The Russian wool industry is alive and well, as indicated by the fact that it produces approximately 50,000 tonnes of wool a year.
Much of this production is supported by a variety of farms, from individuals tending up to 1,000 sheep to large farming units that can manage up to 25 thousand.
Estimates suggest there are around 25 million sheep in Russia, with the majority being Merino Sheep which are renowned for their fine wool.
Yet despite its strong presence and robust diversified set-up, Russia’s wool industry has actually declined over the past 30 years – an ironic reversal of its situation during Soviet times when it imported around 175 tonnes of wool and processed it to clothe the population.
9. South Africa – 47,287 Tonnes
South Africa has a long-standing wool industry and although it sometimes falls to the bottom of the top 10 list, its “Cape Wool” is highly sought after.
The Merino Sheep which were brought to the Cape in the late 1700s are credited with first establishing South African wool as an excellent fiber for garments.
One of the unique features that sets Cape Wool apart from Australian wool is its lack of elasticity, making it ideal for certain garments such as shawls and hosiery.
As a result, there is strong demand both domestically and abroad for South African wool; many world-renowned clothing companies use this high quality material in their products.
This makes South African wool a key component to the country’s overall economy and provides stability and sustainability within the industry.
10. India – 45,844 Tonnes
The Republic of India, although not landing in the top production countries list for wool, boasts an impressive 45,844 tonnes of wool production in 2020.
What’s even more astounding is that 85% of the produced wool is carpet grade, thanks to its harshness and bulkiness.
Supporting this large industry are almost 64 million sheep, currently the third largest population globally.
However, a lesser known fact is that due to the size of their local sheep meat production market, it burdens the prioritization of wool production within the country.
Nevertheless, despite ranking not as high as other producing countries on this list – India’s strong wool industry shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
The bottom line – Wool Producing Countries
Largest Wool Producing Countries: Iran, Russia, South Africa, India What main countries produce wool?
Iran, Russia, South Africa and India Benefits of wool: Biodegradable, Easy to clean, Natural structure that traps air for heat retention Value of global wool industry:
Over $30 billion annually Amount bought and sold yearly: Approximately 2 million tonnes of wool. Types of sheep used for producing wool:
Merino Sheep, Cape Wool. India’s produced wool is 85% carpet grade. Unique features of South Africa’s Cape Wool:
Lacks elasticity making it ideal for certain garments such as shawls and hosiery.
Challenges faced by global wool industry: Difficulties with prioritization of wool production in India due to large local sheep meat production market. Decline of Russian wool industry over past 30 years.
Overall, the global wool industry is a multi-billion dollar market with some impressive production numbers that are driven by countries around the world. While there are some challenges, the versatility and benefits of this natural fiber make it an essential resource for a variety industries worldwide.
As such, it stands as one of the top resources used in creating exclusive handmade carpets, garments and other textile items that have been sought after for centuries.
This article provides an overview of the Largest Wool Producing Countries (Iran, Russia, South Africa and India) and what main countries produce wool; along with its many benefits and industry value.