SYDNEY, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- China's soaring demand for Australia's alpacas has seen the industry explode, Australian Alpaca Association president Ian Frith told Xinhua on Thursday.
According to Frith, there are currently around 500,000 of the long necked animals across the country, but he expects that figure to reach well over 1 million during the next three to four years.
"The fleece is in big demand at the moment and the suppliers are struggling to keep up," he said. "We've had a number of Chinese visitors out to our farm."
Unlike regular wool, the highly sort after alpaca fleece can be worn against the skin as it's much softer.
"It doesn't give you that prickle effect," Frith explained. "It can be used for blankets, clothing, rugs and even in carpets."
This year, the industry body will send a small delegation to visit a number of Chinese mills sourcing alpaca fiber.
"We understand there is a shortage for them, so it's a great opportunity for farmers in Australia," he said.
Also catching on is alpaca meat, which has dramatically risen in popularity in Australian restaurants, according to Frith.
"It's in between lamb and veal and only has about five to six 6 percent fat, so it's very good for you," he said.