Alpaca Shop at Hensting Alpacas
Alpaca fibre can be valued in many ways, depending on the market the producer is selling to. Actual prices obtained by the producer are influenced by all the factors influencing any other farm product, including market niche, geographic location and supply and demand.
In the United Kingdom the alpaca industry is still a breeder's market due to the relatively small size of the national herd. This has led to the promulgation of certain claims about the value of alpaca fibre that may not accurately reflect the value of the fibre.
Adult Fleece £30.00 blanket approx. 1.5 - 2.5 KG £2 postage
Neck and Legs
For instance, it is quite easy to find claims of raw alpaca fibre selling for £7 - £10 an ounce. While it is undoubtedly true that some fibre producers are obtaining prices such as these by selling to fibre artisans, it would be foolish to conclude that alpaca fibre obtains such high prices across the board.
Relatively speaking, alpaca is a very valuable fibre, but the emphasis must be on the word "relative". It is our opinion that one must look to commercial markets in order to establish the base value of this fibre. Adult Fleece £20.00 neck and Legs approx. 1.5 - 2 KG £4 postage
The value of any natural fibre depends largely on its grade - usually established by its micron. In the global commodity markets baby grade (less than 22 micron) alpaca tops (that is fibre that has been processed to the point that it is ready for spinning into yarn) has ranged from about £25- £38 a kilogram over the past 10 years - roughly £12- £20 a pound.
Recent prices (2021) for equivalent grade of wool are around £3.75 a pound.
Prices for similar grade mohair is around £3.75 a pound.
Clearly, alpaca is a valuable natural fibre, even in the commodity market.
Producers will obtain the best prices when they "value add" the fibre. For the small producer this can be done several ways:
- Small scale, on farm processing, including skirting, grading, washing and carding the fibre into batts usable by fibre artisans.
- Custom processing, using any of several "mini-mills" that are available. Fiber can be turned into batts, roving’s, felted sheets or finished yarns for sale into the local market.
- Participation in a fibre pool or a fibre cooperative in order to take advantage of economies of scale unavailable to the individual producer
Producers engaged in value adding their fibre and selling into the local market via farm-based stores, local farmer's markets, or local shops can realistically expect to obtain prices as high as £75-£90 a pound with gross margins of 50% or more.