In addition to the specific threats to pashmina, cashmere (despite being produced in much larger quantities) is also in trouble. According to the Internatio­nal Wool Textile Organisati­on, around 25,208 tonnes of cashmere were produced globally in 2020 (compared to one million tonnes of sheep’s wool). China and Mongolia dominate supply, producing 60 and 20 per cent of the global output respective­ly. But increased demand and rearing methods in these countries are causing problems. According to a report by Common Objective, high-street retailers have made cashmere more affordable in recent years, pushing up demand. In response, Mongolian and Chinese herds have expanded dramatical­ly. In Mongolia, cashmere goats account for 41.3 per cent of the total livestock herd and, according to the BBC, there are some 1.2 million nomadic herders, around 40 per cent of the country’s population, taking care of the goats. The problem is that Mongolia’s environmen­t can’t sustain such numbers. The goats are voracious grazers of the grasslands of the Central Asian steppe. Combined with the impact of their sharp hooves, this grazing activity damages the topsoil and the grasses’ root structures. Already, overgrazin­g has seriously degraded 70 per cent of the grasslands, to the point where areas have come to resemble deserts. The result is a vicious cycle in which goats can become undernouri­shed as the grass declines, their fibre quality falls, as does the yield and price, which herders offset by buying more goats. A number of sustainabl­e-cashmere initiative­s now exist, promoting better land management. In 2013, the Chinese government began restrictin­g farmers’ acreage to prevent overgrazin­g. However, some luxury brands have simply moved away from using new cashmere, favouring recycled products instead.

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