Exports of cashmere and cashmere finished products have soared by more than a third in the first half of 2011 - and the future for the fibre continues to look bright, according to organisers of the Cashmere World trade show, which took place in Beijing earlier this week.

China holds a central position in the cashmere industry both as a producer and consumer. The Italian Trade Commissioner in Beijing, Dr Antonino Laspina, also emphasised the leading role Italy can play in the expansion of the cashmere industry in China.

According to Maurizio Castello, KPMG's head of fashion and luxury products, the outlook for the cashmere market in China for the next few years is positive. "China is demonstrating a large and growing market demand, mainly in casual wear", he said.

'Casualisation', as well as 'men-isation' are two of the factors behind the growing demand for luxury goods including cashmere, according to the president of PGDS Consulting, Professor Piergiorgio Dal Santo.

Developments in digital textile printing technologies, as demonstrated by Saishun, have enabled the printing of creative designs on cashmere. A return to natural colours was also noticeable in the exhibits. "About 30% of our new product line is in natural colour shades", explained Xuerun Cashmere's deputy general manager, Deng Jie.

Growing concern about the damages the textile industry in general and the cashmere industry in particular inflict on the environment was also discussed in a special seminar.

"The session about the improvement of cashmere for the benefit of producers and the environment was fascinating," said EastMax buyer Alessandra Cocchi. "I was interested to hear about the existence of new, unknown pockets of production sources".

Central Asian countries are potential future suppliers of cashmere, according to British social scientist and Odessa Centre director, Dr Carol Kerven, who has spent the last decade on researching the production of cashmere in the region.