Chinese tanners, Henan Prosper, who claim to consume around 60% of Australian shorn lambskins, believe that the drought which blighted the domestic woolskin market is now beginning to have a negative effect on their business.

A major drought across Australia in 2002 has had a significant impact on the numbers of sheep being sent for slaughter. ‘The number of stock being slaughtered has fallen dramatically’, said Bill Stephen, general manager, Dynasty International, an Australian subsidiary of Henan Prosper.

In the late 1980s, there were 160 million head of sheep across Australia. This year the national flock is estimated at around 98 million. The situation has led to higher prices for raw materials and forced companies to source skins from elsewhere. Even their strong buying power has not prevented Henan Prosper from paying higher prices for Australian woolskins.