WELLINGTON -- China has become the main market for New Zealand wool, taking almost half the exports, as the European market declines and sales to Australia plunge, according to an industry official.
Wool Exporters Council president John Dawson said the problems in the Euro-zone and the increasing strength of China as the world's major textiles producer had seen a marked swing in where New Zealand wool sold.
"Compared to last season, our European customers are taking much less wool, with exports down 14.5 percent," Dawson said in a statement Friday.
"But China continues to grow and so far this season has taken 15.4 percent more than at the same time last year. Wool exported to Australia is down a whopping 75 percent," he said.
Dawson said the European Union accounted for only 31 percent of New Zealand wool exports now, while China had leapt to a 47- percent share.
Total wool exports in the year to the end of January 2012 were down by 8 percent, but higher prices meant the export value was up by 28 percent.
Dawson said the sudden drop in exports to Australia was a real concern brought about by a rise in heavily promoted nylon carpets.
"The impact of that in both Australia and New Zealand has been very marked and the wool carpet industries in our two countries are really struggling. The drop in exports to Australia reflects this and it has to be a major concern for the industry in general and wool growers in particular," he said.
Demand for wool was steady, but the high value of the New Zealand dollar was making New Zealand wool very expensive and undermining New Zealand's ability to capitalize on the renewed demand, he said.