There are around 66.5 million heads of cattle in Mongolia, according to the National Statistics Office in 2018. However, economic growth has been generated mostly by the mining sector, cashmere is the country's largest export, only second to minerals with 27 million goats in 2018.
White, beige, warm gray and brown are the four natural colors of cashmere and this makes Mongolia the country that provides the widest color range. On top of that, quality-wise and sustainability-wise, Mongolia is getting more and more recognized on the international market. The cashmere industry is expected to grow by 3.8 percent per annum for the next five years.
China and Mongolia accounted for 93 percent of the world's raw cashmere market, producing 18500 tons of raw cashmere in 2018. Mongolia produced 9500 tons of raw cashmere valued at an average price of 38 USD per kg and at 368 USD million in total. Compared to 2017, the market grew by 12 percent in 2018.
The cashmere and wool sector accounts for 34 percent of Mongolia’s total export. Up to 40 percent of the world's cashmere is sourced from Mongolian goats. Last year, 25 percent of raw cashmere was used in the final product manufacturing in local factories and the remaining 75 percent was washed and combed cashmere. Volume of the final products has increased by nine percent to 25 percent. Established in 1981 and privatized in 2017, Gobi JSC is the dominant market player boasting 71 percent domestic market share and acquiring the title ‘The World’s #1 cashmere coat producer’.
Now, half the Mongolian population is involved in the production of cashmere by products, including textiles. Herder families are accounted for as 210 thousand out of a total 800 thousand households across the country. Every single herder family owns goats, accounting for half of their total animals. However, wool shedding season is pretty short lasting only for one month in spring, while cashmere is the main source of herder families’ income.
Cashmere is the only fibre that has a very narrow diameter which makes it extremely soft to the touch. To protect the term cashmere, the US Government made the wool labeling act which says that in order for it to be called cashmere, it has to be 19 microns in diameter or less. Some parts of Mongolia produce cashmere with a diameter ranging between even 13-14 microns. This means that it is the finest and the most expensive fiber, in other words, the so-called ‘King-Fiber’ which stands out as top quality above the others. In this sense, cashmere is truly “white gold”.