One of China's largest wool producing areas, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, has already sold all of this year#;s wool and cashmere, Woolmark reported.

Apart from wool, the region produced nearly 4,168 tons of cashmere and by early October 4,131 tons of this was sold, effectively accounting for over 99 per cent of the total.

China produces 10,000 tons of cashmere on average — nearly three quarters of the world's total, Woolmark said. However with processing capacity standing at more than four times this amount and with a strong return to fashion of cashmere knitwear, shortages have pushed up prices as buyers rush to secure supplies.

In October 2000 prices for white, dehaired Chinese and Afghan/Iranian cashmere averaged 40-50 per cent higher than prices achieved a year-ago.