China imported 202,000 tons of wool in the first seven months of this year, up 26.8 percent on the same period of last year, the General Administration of Customs said on Thursday.
The imports were valued at US$1.13 billion, up 61 percent, or US$5,619 per ton on average, up 27 percent.
Of the total imports, 128,000 tons, or 63.5 percent, came from Australia, up 20.3 percent. The European Union supplied 14,000 tons, up 90.7 percent.
State-owned enterprises accounted for 86,000 tons, or 42.6 percent, of the imports, while foreign-funded companies made up 64,000 tons, 31.8 percent.
Customs sources said the increase in imports was largely due to short supply and mounting demand at home, as the global wool processing center is shifting to China.
China processes more than 400,000 tons of wool a year, one third of the world's total.
Growing imports have aggravated environmental concerns in the wool processing industry, the sources warned.
The wool scouring and processing techniques result in different poisonous chemicals being released in the waste water. However, many domestic enterprises do not have advanced processing techniques and sound environmental protection awareness.
The algae outbreak this June in Taihu Lake, the nation's third biggest freshwater lake in east China, was partly due to the discharge of waste water from the huge number of wool processing mills located around the lake, whose overall processing capacity accounted for 70 percent of the nation's total.
The General Administration of Customs called on local wool enterprises to update their technology, establish sound industry standards and reduce the potential hazards for the environment.
(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2007)