About the Year
Through innovative farming practices, wool and cotton remain significant industries for modern day Australia
Natural partners: IYNF, Australian cotton and wool
20 May 2009, Sydney - From the first barrel of Australian wool exported to England in 1807 and the first three bags of cotton exported in 1830, the national economy has depended on the wool and cotton industries.
Australia's Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke today paid tribute to the country's wool and cotton producers, saying they were world leaders in innovation and productivity. Mr Burke was speaking in Sydney at an event to mark the United Nations International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF).
He was joined by Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Dr Jacques Diouf; Regional Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner Richard Towle; Assistant Food and Agriculture Organization Representative for the Pacific Islands Paul Tomane; key stakeholder groups and cotton and wool growers.
Dr Diouf said the aim of the International Year was to raise the profile of natural fibre products and to emphasise their value in fighting hunger and poverty and to overall economic growth.
He said that over the past 50 years, natural fibres have been replaced in clothing, household furnishings and industry by low-cost synthetic fibres produced from petrochemicals, which now account for an estimated 60% of world textile production.
"This trend, and the impact of the current global economic downturn, are of great concern," he said. "The production, processing and export of natural fibres are of significant economic importance to many developing countries and vital to the livelihoods and food security of millions of small-scale farmers and processors."
IYNF was raising global awareness of the importance of natural fibres not only to producers and industry, but also to consumers and the environment, he said.
Awareness and sustainability
The Australian Government will continue to work with wool and cotton industry to raise awareness of the importance of sustainably produced natural fibres and to promote demand for Australian produce.
Australia is the largest wool producer in the world, followed by China. In 2006-07, it exported more than $3 billion of wool to markets including China, Italy, India, the Czech Republic and Korea.
Cotton is one of Australia's highest rural export earners; 98% of cotton grown in Australia is exported in an industry generating more than $1 billion annually. Key cotton export markets include China, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.
Other emerging fibre industries include angora, alpaca, mohair and cashmere.
Mr Burke said the wool and cotton industries have helped to shape communities in regional Australia and have underpinned the growth of the national economy.
"Producers in these industries have learnt to farm smarter and are globally competitive, which is more important than ever as we deal with the global recession," Mr Burke said.
"Investments in research and development alone have boosted yields by 22% in less than a decade and pesticide use has fallen by 85% in the same time.
"Producers have also dramatically improved the way they use water and are working to further double their water use efficiency in the next ten years.
"Families will always need quality clothing, textiles and homewares and Australian producers will remain world leaders in delivering these goods from the farm to consumers."
Contact us to get involved:
International Year of Natural Fibres
Trade and Markets Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39 06 57054495