Wool producers who take a serious interest in the future of their industry are monitoring the activities of cotton growers worldwide, the Australian newspaper Herald and Weekly Times said today.

Having lost market share in Europe to synthetics, cotton growers are striving for a more united and vigorous approach to marketing cotton to the consumer. The International Cotton Advisory Committee meeting in Cairns two weeks ago decided to push ahead with efforts to establish an international cotton mark.

International 'Cotton Mark' takes Woolmark as mentor
Privately, delegates at the meeting said they admired the Woolmark and its key role as a marketing tool and said they hoped a cotton mark could be as effective. They accepted that it is not enough to produce a quality product - the consumer has to be persuaded to buy it. In reporting on the findings of the Cairns meeting, the ICAC headquarters in Washington noted that an international cotton mark could serve "as a unifying symbol to the world industry and denote cotton content in consumer products".

Man-made versus synthetic fibres
This competition between natural fibres and man-made fibres is assuming special importance in world textile markets. Operators in the market have come to accept that the interests of wool growers and cotton growers tend to coincide.

Both can claim natural fibre appeal and could collaborate rather than compete with each other in the textile apparel market.

ICAC is relying on national organisations in producer countries to raise consumer awareness of cotton fibre content in products. The aim is "to educate consumers about the desirable properties of cotton fibre and provide positive information about the cotton industry".

Other efforts to promote cotton at the national level have been effective, according to ICAC. US cotton producers have spent lavishly promoting their own Cotton Inc mark but have never put their label on garments. Nor have they actively sent the message outside their borders.

Massive spending on research and development by the synthetic manufacturers has resulted in vastly improved fibres and fabrics that are claimed to be either "just like wool" or "as good as wool".

In the past three years, wool marketers have seen the potential benefits for wool in blending with synthetics.

The best example is the Wool plus Lycra product, which has sold exceptionally well.

But retailers in all major markets insist that, like cotton, wool must continue to improve its consumer appeal if it is to survive the challenge of the new age synthetics.