A U.S. industry group is working to bridge the gap between alpaca growers and manufacturers.
The U.S. Alpaca Fiber Council (USAFC) formed an industry-specific organization to tackle U.S. alpaca fleece production. The group aims to help U.S. manufacturers with the marketability and production of U.S. alpaca fiber into their supply chains.
In 1894, the U.S. began commercially importing alpacas. Each alpaca breeder’s primary focus was to produce offspring with the softest fleece for many consumer goods, including apparel.
Due to the investments and work of several domestic breeders over the years, the U.S. now has the capability to offer the global market superior alpaca fleece.
The alpaca market is also on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census of farms and ranches, there were over 140,000 alpacas in the U.S. Data from a University of California study also indicated that the average auction prices for alpacas dropped from $70,000 in 2005 to $10,000 in 2011.
Despite changes in the U.S. alpaca market, alpaca fiber is still in high demand today, due to its eco-friendly provisions for apparel retailers. According to the USAFC, alpaca fleece from the Huacaya and Suri breeds are sustainable, since they come in 16 natural colors and don’t need to be dyed or washed with harsh chemicals. Other desirable features of alpaca fleece include stain resistance and high tensile strength.
At a meeting held in Washington earlier this year, the U.S. Alpaca Fiber Council came together to discuss the future of the U.S. alpaca market and how other industries, including manufacturing, could form better relations with this agricultural subcategory. The council, which consists of agricultural cooperatives, artisan and commercial mills, and alpaca industry experts, are working together to assist manufacturers with their alpaca product processes.
“While the textile industry focuses on supply chain sustainability, re-shoring and authentic brands, we believe U.S. grown fiber and U.S. made alpaca textiles could not be a better fit,” said NEAFP and USAFC founding organizer Chris Riley said.
With USAFC, U.S. alpaca growers and U.S. manufacturers will communicate more efficiently. U.S. alpaca growers will have access to training on harvest best practices, sustainability and profitability, meanwhile U.S. manufactures will boost their sourcing, pricing and market analysis initiatives. In upcoming years, the USAFC plans to bring both parties together to advance the U.S. alpaca industry with collaborative innovations.