Specialists on cashmere

Mongolian Economy
2020-04-10 19:17:16

25 percent of raw cashmere turned into final products last year

B.Batkhuu, Head of Light industry Policy Implementation Coordination Department of Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry

-First of all, I would like to thank the “Sustainable Fibre Alliance” for their effort and participation in bringing Mongolian cashmere products to the national and international market.
The cashmere and wool sector accounts for 34 percent of Mongolia `s total export. Last year, 25 percent of the raw cashmere was used to make final products and the remaining 75 percent is washed and combed cashmere. The Government of Mongolia approved “Cashmere” program last year. The program is aimed to produce environmentally friendly cashmere products, increase the competitiveness of Mongolian cashmere products, develop supply chain structure and boost a cashmere products export. Moreover, establishing a supply chain that could offer constant delivery of raw cashmere that has a certificate of origin and registration is another main issue included in the program.
I would like to say that the program has been a success so far based on the following developments. First of all, percent of finished products has increased from 8-9 percent to 25 percent. Based on such positive growth, total sales volume reached 1.3 trillion MNT, a 30 percent increase. Finally, a total of 1570 new workplaces has been created, which makes a cashmere sector the largest contributor to the labor sector of Mongolia. These progressive outcomes have been results of both cooperation of the Development Bank of Mongolia and responsible effort by the cashmere and wool sector.
Sustainable animal husbandry based on knowledge, the introduction of advanced technology and innovation and increase of production output have been stated as main objectives in the “Development policy and strategy of the animal husbandry sector of Mongolia between 2020-2025”, approved by the Government of Mongolia. On top of this, value chain development model of the animal husbandry sector shall be closely associated with the tradition and heritage of Mongolian herders and shall support sustainable management of natural resources. Within the framework of strategic objectives and development direction of the animal husbandry sector, it was emphasized that quality and safety of raw material and products of animal origin shall be controlled by registration and their origins shall be certified. These requirements are in line with the international standard.
A good quality cashmere and supply chain that conforms with the market standard is crucial to establish a cashmere value chain. Unfortunately, cashmere yield has received temporary bad assessment last year. This was due to lose control and unsettled supply chain which allowed wool, dirt and other impurities enter cashmere fiber. We must correct such a practice, which ultimately increases the income of households and establishes a foundation of quality final products.
We aim to create a “Khaan shirhegt” (King fiber), a national cashmere-fiber brand which stands out from Chinese fiber for its high quality. For this purpose, “Mongolian Wool and Cashmere association” has been selected as its strategic partner. Therefore, I would like “Sustainable fiber cashmere alliance” to cooperate with the association. Their mutual effort on the standard and certification process especially shall be greatly appreciated and bring an immensely positive result, I believe.
Invaluable recommendations and advice from the “Sustainability in the Cashmere Value Chain” international conference, organized by “Sustainable Fibre Alliance” shall be actualized by the ministry to help create a sustainable policy and legal environment. The Government of Mongolia implements policies directed at developing cashmere supply chain, optimizing a cashmere fiber processing technology, increasing income of herders and deepening a cashmere sector contribution to the Mongolian.

We aim to prove that the nomadic livestock farming is a sustainable sector

Dr. Ts.Altanzul, Standard compliance senior specialist

Sustainable Fibre Alliance NGO conducts a training that support herders in techniques that lead to sustainable grassland management and improved animal welfare. We interviewed Dr. Ts.Altanzul, standard compliance senior specialist of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance NGO on topics, including the training and the organization.
-Could you please elaborate on the significance of the training, intended to empower herders?
-We have been organizing this training for trainers of the herding communities for the second year in a row. We say customer is king. Today what customers want to know is the origin of the cashmere products they are keen to purchase. More and more European customers would like to know whether Mongolians pay enough attention to the animal welfare when goats are combed or sheared.
Basically, the nomadic livestock farming of Mongolia has been sustained for many years, which allowed herders to keep its traditional way of living. However, we must prove it. Specifically, we must demonstrate that natural resources of Mongolia are abundant and sustainable by examples, not just by words. Traditional animal husbandry of Mongolia has been present for many centuries. Foreigners want to know if this could be preserved for many years ahead or not. On the other hand, we plan to revive and preserve traditional herding techniques in some soums. What I would like to express is that the Mongolian traditional animal husbandry is a standard itself. At this year“s training, trainers have been prepared to help herders to get involved in evaluation and obtain a certificate.
-Please inform us about the certificate, issued to the herders and herder cooperatives?
-Actually, this is a certificate of acknowledgement that good practices in regard to balanced grassland and herding activities have been observed. Evaluation process is required to obtain the certificate. We grant two types of certificates with 104 different references and criteria to herders. When a herder receives the certificate, it means that the herder maintains the health and welfare of animals, ensures that animals are provided with the appropriate feed and fences and reduces risk of stress and injury to animals.
-What is the standard of the certificate? Who enforces the standard and criteria?
-The certificate is issued by our organization and it strictly is the European standard. This standard has nothing to do with European livestock, cashmere or food etc. Instead this standard is about animal husbandry, which validates that the owner works in animal husbandry sector and produces sustainable products. Reduction of grassland degradation, joint effort by herders to protect wild animals and animal health and sustainable environment are validated by certain criteria. Cashmere from the certified herders or herder cooperatives shall be more valuable compared to the collected cashmere from herders and traders. The certificate covers not only cashmere but it also proves the health of animals which opens opportunity for the herder cooperatives sell meat to the meat companies.
We aim to join ICL Global Group. The group is home to companies that runs environmentally friendly agriculture business. If we succeed to join the group, it shall be great demonstration that Mongolian goats have no adverse effect on the environment and Mongolian herders carry out all work in accordance with relevant environmental, health and safety requirements, codes of practice and other processes.
-How many herder cooperatives involved in the evaluation and received certificate?
-Last year, 17 organizations were evaluated and all but one received the certificate. As for this year, three organizations met criteria, making it 19 organizations that own the prestigious certificate. Benefit of owning the certificate has already been in full display when “Gobi” LLC and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development started small projects at Delgereh soum of Dornogovi province and Shinejinst soum of Bayankhongor province to support animal husbandry. Besides, traceability of fibre structure were introduced in three herder cooperatives within the framework of “Sustainable cashmere” project of the United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia. Discussion on granting eco loan of the KHAAN Bank to certified herders or herder cooperatives has been underway. As a result of this, a total of 19 herder cooperatives could be eligible to receive a loan with an interest rate of 1.25 percent. These are some examples of opportunities, created for herders by SFA effort and activity. Herders began to consider us not a project implementer, not a cashmere buyer but as a partner to work with. Currently, we have received requests to participate in evaluation from more than 40 herder cooperatives.
-In the last few years, the main focus of the SFA has been training for herders. Could you please give us more information on that?
-Our organization has arranged trainings on natural science, such as geography, history, flora and zoology for 400 students of 8 schools in conformation with uniqueness of the province. As for students of some high schools in Khentii province, for example, we prepared a special programme on flora, rivers, springs and local heritage of the province to deliver customized information. The training shall be offered to Vocational training centers starting from September 1.
Moreover, number of young herders has been on the constant decline. Therefore, we have organized training for young herders aged between 18-25 on topics such as livestock and weather studying skills. This kind of training has been organized at two soums of Gobi-Altai province and two soums of Umnugobi province for 2 years.

Herders prefer to harvest light-colored cashmere based on market needs

L.Burmaa, Head of “Jargalantiin Itgeltsel” herder cooperative of Umnugobi province

-Animal products and animal herding techniques differ at each region based on its features. How does herders comb goats and harvest fibre at your province?
-Umnugobi province is situated in the southernmost part of Mongolia. Goat is prevalent among the five kinds of livestock in Umnugobi. We boast “Zunguin tsagaan”, a special goat breed that produces fine fibre and the breed is the main living resource for us. Herders prefer to harvest light-colored cashmere based on market needs. One advantage of fibre from gobi goat is that it boasts high yield and great quality. We do our best to maintain the quality of the fibre.
Herders of our province traditionally began to comb goats starting from around April 10. Based on the weather, more tenacious ones, such as male goats are combed first and female and one-year old goats comes last. Practice of combining goats by tying their all four legs has rapidly been declining. More and more herders began prepare fences and sheds to comb goats.
-What benefits and changes has brought membership of “Sustainable fibre alliance” to your cooperative?
-By joining the NGO, herders began to apply a more scientific approach to obtain required skills necessary for sustainable grassland management and fibre preparation. Our herders first contacted the organization in 2017. Since then we have been cooperating in three main fields: promote animal breeding and selection method, proper grassland management and avoid overgrazing and desertification and improve the quality of fibre without reducing yield.
We have also been actively working towards protecting animal welfare and improving their living environment. Since the establishment of the cooperative, trees and forages were planted in 2.5 hectares land that has irrigation system. Last year, we made a proposal to local authorities to build the well with automatic pump, powered by solar energy and they agreed. Currently, our livestock as well as wild animals use the well. Most importantly, we are learning to work and herd animals in a more sophisticated way.
-Herders are the basis of Mongolian cashmere and wool sector. How do you evaluate the contribution of herders to the development of Mongolia?
-The only thing we cherish is how to improve the quality of goat breed, which is a vital source of our livelihood. We work hard to maintain a quality and yield level of cashmere fibre and harvest fibre that meets production standards. We believe supplying high quality cashmere fibre helps to provide domestic and foreign production demand, then we, herders are contributing to the development of our country.
-It is common that middlemen purchase combed cashmere directly from herders, thus prevents manufacturers to purchase high quality cashmere. Do you have any opportunity to directly sell or deliver cashmere to national manufacturers?
-It is still a challenge for herders living in remote provinces. For instance, our cooperative hasn’t sold combed cashmere to companies since 2008. Our famous white cashmere fibre is highly valued by middlemen, and herders have already become content with their high valuation. However, when we came in contact with the “Sustainable Fibre Alliance”, it allowed us to sell cashmere and wool to national manufacturers. We are planning to provide our white cashmere fibre to the manufacturers on constant basis, starting from next year. The Bayandel soum is connected to the main asphalt road and will allow us to transport 1-2 tons of cashmere to Ulaanbaatar.
-What is the uniqueness and main feature of Mongolian cashmere and wool, in your opinion?
-First of all, Mongolia has unique ecosystem and the largest open grasslands in the world, which makes cashmere fibre more healthy and special compared to cashmere goats fed by artificial supplements in other countries.
The main criterion is the cashmere fineness, which is required to be with a diameter of 13.0 to 14.0 microns. The best cashmere is suitable for the most luxury products. This is the target which we must all work toward.

Herders carefully comb their goats because they are the main source of their livelihood

T.Altansukh, Head of “Bayantul” herder cooperative of Must soum of Khovd Province

-What kinds of goat combing practices does your soum use?
-Animal husbandry is the very first and main step of the cashmere production supply chain. Raw material protection, herders` goat combing practice and habit, grassland management and supply chain structure all contribute to the first phase of raw material production. These practices shall be environmentally friendly and free from human labor exploitation. Only then, the value of animal husbandry shall be truly appreciated.
Cashmere fiber is raw material generated by goat at certain time periods. Mongolians, based on their valuable tradition generally comb their goats every year between April 15 to May 15. The traditional method is utilized in goat combing and shearing. At first, the fibre entangle shall be cut out and blunt comb, similar to massage comb is used to avoid nicks or cut to the skin. On top of this, the leg tying tradition is honored by Mongolians. We use soft cords, like the one we use in embroidering buttons of deel, a traditional Mongolian costumes in tying legs of goats. It is easy to unlock and doesn’t hurt the goat’s legs.
Besides, goats shall be considerably stout and free from distress. Herders carefully comb their goats because they are the main source of their livelihood.
-Mongolians prefer to herd animals in harmony with four seasons of the year. What are the benefits of goat combing in your opinion?
-In spring or summer time, combing makes goats feel comfortable and free from any additional weight. When you think of someone who is wearing thick or warm clothes in summer time, it makes you feel bad for them and wish them to shed clothes. That is just what happens to goats if herders don`t comb the goats. Goats are generally arrogant and tidy animals.
-To supply national manufacturers with cashmere fibre, what and how many stages shall be passed?
-Both animal herding standard and the first stage of cashmere production supply chain standards are adhered by the herders. There was a time when herders searched for someone or middlemen who could purchase at a higher price. Now, that time and messy supply chain system which was present for 25 years has gone. Herders now sell harvested cashmere fibre through their cooperatives to the manufacturers.
-Have you encountered any setbacks in relation to the process?
-We started by introducing these practices to members of the cooperatives. Then comes establishing trust with the manufacturers. It is important that national manufacturers trust us, herder cooperatives and vice versa.
Finally, herders should understand whose goats we are herding and taking care of. Are we Chinese herders who delivers cashmere fibre to the Chinese manufacturers or Mongolian herders who are contributing to the development of Mongolian national manufacturers. In my opinion, a Mongolian herder is someone who protects grassland, cares about their animals, ensures security of themselves and animals, supplying harvested cashmere fibre to national manufacturers.
-When you consider milk, dairy, wool, cashmere and other raw materials of the five kinds of livestock, how important is cashmere to the livelihood of herders?
-The most important one is cashmere fibre. It accounts for almost 80 percent of income for some households. We carried out research on the income of herders of six soums in Khovd Province. It revealed that cashmere sales generated 3.2 to 5 billion MNT income in only one year. We shall keep in mind that lives and consumptions of herders lie behind these numbers. On the other hand, cashmere fibre creates workplaces at the national manufacturers in an indirect way. This is a chain reaction of the cashmere fibre.

Eastern provinces boast fine fibre

D.Baigalmaa, Mayor of Bayankhutag soum of Khentii Province and member of “Erkhetiin Ar” herder cooperative

-How do you estimate the potential of your soum in terms of cashmere and wool harvesting?
-Total of 470 thousand heads of animals were counted at our soum last year. 130 thousand of them are goats, which means we have more than enough potential to harvest cashmere or wool for manufacturers. One herder of our soum received an award from the “Sustainable fiber alliance” last year for his initiative of establishing textile products business, after being granted a soft loan from the “Soum development fund”.
The main thing for us is to comb the goats in a traditional way and prove that our lifestyle could harvest cashmere fiber or wool in accordance with international standards. In this regard, our province has a very good potential to meet such standards and demands. As of now, two herder cooperatives have submitted their request to join the alliance.
-How should herders prove that they maintain sustainable cashmere fiber harvesting? What is the method that determine the origin of the cashmere fibre?
-By joining the “Sustainable fibre alliance”, we began to identify the goats by their age and sexes, which would help the alliance to prove the origin of cashmere fibre. Then, the grassland management unit is established and the team is to draft a map and plan. Even historical monuments are registered apart from grassland type, flora and fauna. The registration is carried out in cooperation with herder cooperatives and local authorities. Moreover, herder shall build enclosures in accordance with the standard and ensure they do not have sharp edges or nails. No vehicle or motorcycle is allowed to graze animals and the traditional way of herding are to be observed at all times. Such practices must be validated by documents and pictures.
-Mongolia is one of the largest producers of cashmere in the world. Though, in Mongolia, cashmere type and quality differ at each region. What is the main feature of cashmere in Khentii Province?
-Khentii province is located in eastern part of Mongolia. Bayankhutag soum is famous for its “Galshariin ulaan” goat breed which we still preserve and herd today. Eastern provinces boast finer fibres compared to other provinces. That would explain considerably higher price and high valuation of cashmere fibre harvested in eastern provinces.
-Mongolians have maintained their traditional way of animal herding for many centuries. Have you seen any changes to the way of herding when you joined “Sustainable fiber alliance”?
-Mongolians boast many traditions in terms of goat combing and shearing practices such as preventing from pain and distress and using non-edgy scissors. On top of this, we assemble a ger to comb the goats in order to establish ecologically and animal welfare friendly environment.

There are 130 standards in Mongolia related to textiles, wool and cashmere

Ch.Purevdulam, Specialist at the Agency for Standard and Metrology

-How many different kinds of standards does Mongolia have in relevance to the wool and cashmere industry?
-There are sufficient national and international standards at all levels ranging from raw materials to semi-produced and up-to-date products as well as standard requirements related to sheep wool, goat cashmere, yak wool and camel wool. The quality characteristics of these standards are based on the results of research institutions that are accredited laboratories. There are 130 standards related to wool and cashmere. About 20 of them allign with international standards. In other words, it was translated and cited for the development of national standards. The standards differ in nature. To simplify the definition of standars, it gives the least amount of measurement. Amongst those being implemented in the wool and cashmere industry, it includes technical requrements, industrial chemicals, surface texture, pigmented matter, wool and cashmere structure, its characterisistics, hygine and safety parameters used in industrial technology or washing.
-NGOs operating in agriculture introduce new standards and measurements to herders. How can you tell whether these standards have been approved?
-The standards are approved by the Government Agency for Standardization and Measurement. The standards has its own name, MNS label, a number and the year it was approved. For example MNS 0215:2018 is the standard packaging, labeling, storage and is for handling all types of animal fibres such as goat cashmere, camel wool, sheep wool, yak wool, and horse mane. These numbers can be checked from our official website www.estandard.gov.mn. The Lse on Accreditation of Standardization, Technical Coordnation and Conformity Assessment has commenced on July 1, 2018. The law aims to aopt and disseminate national standards to the State Khural of Mongolia. In addition, Government Resolution No. 219 of 2018 approves the list of compulsory products. Those covered by the certification body of GSM are authorized.
-How well do people follow the standards are implemented?
-We have an abundance of standards. It clearly indicates who it is for, where it is to be and the extent of its use. Supervisory bodies have it be aimed at consumers, and the people who prepare the wool, cashmere, and raw materials. Our herders and distributors have limited access to information on the standards. It is good that international organizations anf NGOs provided training and information programs.
-You are aiming to create a national cashmere brand called Khaan Shirkhegt. What standard does this cashmere follow?
-It is a standardized cashmere fiber and it is classified into four micronied fibre categories; micron, long, greasy and mixtures. The highest grade of processed cashmere is classified as “Khaan shirkhegt”, I, II, and III. The Green Gold project initiated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation updated te cashere standard and extended to “Khaan shirkhegt” and got it approved after consulting with industry reseachers, scientists and relevant professionals.


Mongolian Economy