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Life

Mongolia's cashmere trade tries to break into the 21st century

Government fails to squeeze brokers out of traditional industry

Broker Arvinzaya Khenz, right, inspects raw cashmere for color and quality. Mongolia’s Bayantsaagan region is famous for its highly coveted white cashmere. (Photo by Sarah Trent)

BAYANTSAGAAN, Mongolia -- In this remote town in the Gobi steppe, a bustling market has sprung up, with sellers offering everything from refrigerators to yurts, the portable homes used by Mongolian nomads. In spring, however, the market hosts a much more lucrative trade -- in raw cashmere, the fine, soft fleece of some kinds of goat.

Up to 40% of the world's cashmere is sourced from Mongolian goats, and this is an important market for brokers such as Arvinzaya Khenz, who buy the sought-after wool from herders. For Arvinzaya, 42, spring means driving around Bayantsagaan in her beige blazer and white Toyota Land Cruiser, prowling for business.

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