Last Updated on March 30, 2023

Wool Production in South Africa


Wool is a global commodity, with roughly 1,949.5 million kilograms traded, and with only anecdotal information about the industry available, there is curiosity about the state of wool production in South Africa.

However, before we delve into the South African wool industry, let’s first explore the industry as a whole.

Wool is a textile fibre from sheep and other mammals such as goats, rabbits, and camelids. In recent times, technological advancement and widespread activism have also led to the creation of mineral and glass wool, similar to animal wool.

Wool has a wide range of uses and primarily finds application in sectors such as fashion, activewear, interiors, flooring, aviation, architecture, and manufacturing. Researchers find more uses for wool yearly through additional research and development.

Global wool production has been fluctuating over the years, with major wool producers such as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, and Uraguay exporting the bulk of what consumers demand.

The industry as a whole employs millions of people worldwide in a wide range of different roles, from farmhands to skilled textile workers and retail staff. The World Organization for Animal Health estimates roughly 300 million workers from rural areas benefit from the industry.

South African Wool Market

South Africa has long been known as an important apparel wool producer, with the bulk of wool being of the Merino type below 27 μm in diameter. Recently, there has been a noted shift to lower fibre diameter, with the bulk now falling 20.1-21.0 μm.

The majority of South African wool exports are greasy wool but scoured wool, tops, or noils also make the cut.

The most important export destinations for South African wool are the Czech Republic, China, Italy, Germany, India, and France.

The wool industry in South Africa generates high-quality, environmentally sound products that match the textile industry’s needs. South Africa produces its wool chiefly for export under extensive, semi-extensive, and intensive conditions.

Although the carrying capacity in more arid areas varies from 5 to 10 hectares per small stock unit, others have up to 25 small stock units per hectare on cultivated pastures.


The sheep breed with the highest wool production per head is the pure-bred Merino, closely followed by other dual-purpose Merino strains- Dohne Merino, the South African Mutton Merino, and Letelle.

The country’s wool clip is predominantly a Merino clip; coarse and coloured types are also produced and marketed on a fairly limited scale in the Eastern Cape and the Free State.

The South African wool market took a beating in 2020-2021 due to the Covid-19 related challenges that not only included lockdowns, the slowdown in demand but also global supply chain constraints.


According to Cape Wools SA, the 2020/21 wool season closed with the average market indicator at R162/kg, a significant drop from the 2018 price of R250/kg.

Generally, many factors determine the price of wool, such as the level of international stocks, consumer preferences and fashion trends, currency exchange rates, and so much more.

As a result of the slowdown in demand caused by the pandemic, wool manufacturers realized the need to diversify and find new ways to use wool instead of restricting its use in formal wear.

With this in mind, sportswear, children’s wear, insulation, and more are some of the new applications of the material to drive demand.

Auction systems or private treaties are how buyers trade cape wools. Port Elizabeth is where the auctions primarily take place once a week during the season (August to June).

In the interim, sellers warehouse the wools in three or four main ports- Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, and Durban.

white wool fibre very close up image


South African wool production is predominant in the Eastern Cape, including areas such as Ciskei/ Transkei, Barkley East, Cradock, Somerset East, Albert, Aberdeen, and Graff Reinet.

Mohair Production

South Africa is the world leader in mohair production- a fibre that makes up less than 1% of all global natural fibres.

As a result of advanced breeding and farming techniques, the country can ensure consistent quality and supply over 50% of the world’s mohair production.

Cape mohair receives high demand owing to its lustre, moisture absorption, overall resilience and appeal, silky texture, and durability.

The wool market has many big players like Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Argentina, the UK, and Uruguay, with South Africa being one of the leading African producers of wool.

Despite its significant contribution to the South African economy, the industry itself has faced a few challenges due to reduced demand and pandemic-related chaos. However, it is still a major contributor to the livelihood of millions of South Africans.

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