There are approximately three million alpacas worldwide with approximately 80 percent of these in Peru. The industry in South America does not export the raw fibre material it is processed in Peru into products for export. Products include clothing, yarns, and knitwear and craft products.
There are two types of alpaca; the huacaya, which accounts for 80 percent of the total and the suri which makes up the remaining 20 percent. The fibre of the suri is the longest and the most prized. The fibre is fine and silky, between 20-34 microns in diameter and 8-12 cms in length. Colours range from pure white to various shades of white, with some reddish browns and greys and black. This colour range means dying is not necessary.
The fibre is shorn from the alpacas. The fibre is neither allergenic nor itchy and can therefore be worn by people with sensitive skins.
In South America where most alpacas are farmed, they are usually raised in their natural habitat where they eat plants they cut with their teeth without uprooting them. This allows the high altitude region where they live to continue to prosper. Alpacas have big camel's hooves which don't sink into the soil and cause damage. As an animal species exploited for its fibre it is relatively ecologically friendly.