Chinese cashmere exports from Qinghe County, the leading cashmere processing base, have increased by 30 per cent this year, bringing earnings to $100m, the Woolmark Company reported.

However a tough year for producers, which included a cull of around 300,000 cashmere goats to "prevent an ecological disaster", means that targets will be tight said a forecast by the Wool & Cashmere Committee of Chinese Animal By-Products Circulation Association.

Prices are expected to remain firm although the current price is already thought to be too expensive for consumers and foreign purchasers.

Demand for cashmere yarn is also firm according to activity in Qinghe County located at northern China's Hebei Province. This area is the largest chinese cashmere processing and exporting base and the largest cashmere market in the world.

Cashmere processing started in Qinghe in early 1980s and by the end of 2000 there are over 100 cashmere-processing mills of which 8 are JV mills. The Qinghe County has over 13,000 carding machines producing more than 4800 tons of cashmere and about 11000 tons of other animals' fibers annually. In the past two years, the county has invested over several hundred million RMB for 21 production lines.

In 2000, Qinghe County spun 1950 tons of Cashmere yarn and exported 1,100 tons yarn, accounted for 60 per cent of the national total cashmere exports. In 2001, the county has received 30 per cent more of export orders than 2000, contributing a direct earning of $100m.