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Feature: Uruguay unveils new brand to seize larger global market share
From:Xinhua  |  2020-09-14 15:29

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MONTEVIDEO, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Amid one of the bleakest periods for Uruguay's wool industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, producers and traders are hoping to reposition their product globally by launching a new brand name -- Uruguay Wools.

The brand was recently unveiled in a bid to position the country's output among high-end wools made with "skilled craftsmanship and centuries-old tradition."

Magdalena Rocanova, spokesperson for the Uruguayan Wool Secretariat (SUL), told Xinhua that Uruguay Wools aims to "speak of the tradition, knowledge and work that Uruguay has in handling wool."

Approved and promoted with the support of Uruguay XXI, the country's export promotion agency, the branding initiative was part of the National Strategic Plan for the Sheep Industry.

However, as springtime nears in the Southern Hemisphere and shearing season is in full swing, many fear much of the harvest may end up in storage sheds with last year's unsold inventory as sales lag, worsened by the pandemic.

"Wool consignees estimate between 40 percent and 50 percent (of the product harvested) to date could be leftover," Diego Saavedra, general manager of leading producer Central Lanera Uruguaya, told Xinhua.

International demand for wool fell in 2019 and the pandemic exacerbated the decline, dragging the price of wool down this September in Australia to the lowest it has ever seen in 11 years.

To recover the industry, "we first need demand to rise again at the end point of the chain, at retail stores. That is what drives the woolen textile chain," said Saavedra.

Uruguay, with an annual production of about 25 million kilos of raw or unwashed wool, is the world's fourth-largest exporter of wool tops in terms of volume and the sixth-largest in terms of revenue.

Paz Bottaro, market analyst at SUL, said China is the main buyer of both raw and washed wool, and in the category of woolen tops, it is among the leading buyers, Bottaro said.

One way authorities aim to help the sector is by "trying to lift restrictions on producers so they can continue to increase their livestock, which has remained at 3.5 million heads," said Bottaro.

In 2019, Uruguay's sheep sector exports fell by 16 percent to 276 million U.S. dollars, and wool and wool products accounted for 71 percent of that.

Despite the current rough patch, the national wool industry is optimistic about the product's potential as a natural fiber.

"It is biodegradable, it adapts to different types of climate, from hot to very cold, but above all ... it is sustainable and ecological, which is where the textile world is heading," said Saavedra, from Central Lanera.

"It has a promising future, you have to build bridges to reach that future," he said.

According to Bottaro, the pandemic may even end up giving the industry a much-needed lift.

"There is a very important opportunity arising from the pandemic" because consumers are going to look for products that are "compatible with the environment and human health," and sheep's meat and wool both "have enormous potential" to meet those demands, said Bottaro. Enditem