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What we are seeing now are enhancements of wools' natural qualities to increase the vast range of potential uses for the fibre.
Ian Hartley, the CEO of British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) speaks about the market of British wool, in a tete-a-tete with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) was established in 1950, to operate a central marketing system for UK fleece wool, with the aim of achieving the best possible net return for producers. Under The British Wool Marketing Scheme of 1950, the BWMB is required to register all producers with four or more sheep. It is headquartered in Bradford.
Mr. Hartley joined the BWMB in 1986, originally through its wool trading subsidiary. He was appointed Deputy Managing Director in 1991, becoming Managing Director in 1995 and is actively involved in all aspects of the Board's operation. He is an economics graduate and Chartered Accountant, with a background in the textile industry.
What lead to the formation of BWMB? Was there any urgent need to be addressed?
The British Wool Marketing Board was formed in 1950. At that time wool was classified as a vital commodity as far as the Government was concerned (please note that the Government purchased all the wool available during the Second World War). There was no central collection system or register of producers and the formation of the BWMB gave the Government information it required to address potential future problems.
What is the main focus of BWMB?
Since 1992, with the end of the Guaranteed Price system, the BWMB has effectively been a farmers’ cooperative with no direct Government involvement. The main aim and focus of the BWMB is to provide a mechanism for farmers to achieve the best possible price for their wool. In order to do that, the BWMB has set up an extensive collection, grading and testing system for British Wool and is actively involved in market development and promotion of British Wool products. It is a founder member of, and plays a very active role within, the Campaign for Wool.
What can you predict about the prices of wool as a commodity in the near future and what are the reasons you can attribute to it?
Wool is a globally traded commodity and, as such, there is a very close correlation between the price of comparative wools, especially between UK and New Zealand, the major producer of interior and crossbred wools. The main factors influencing prices in the future are the supply of wool; level of consumer confidence in our major markets, particularly China and USA; improved growth within the Eurozone economies. In the near future I can see the price of British Wool, due to the shortage of supply, increase and over the season (June to June) I think the average price will be between 10-20% higher than the previous year.
Which variety of British wool enjoys a maximum demand in the global market? Can you give any statistics in this regard?
It is very difficult to estimate the level of British Wool exports in the global market. At the current time we would estimate approximately 65-75% of wool sold at auction is exported, with the major markets being China, USA and the Eurozone.
How does the quality of British wool differs from the rest?
British Wool is unique in that there are more varieties of wool than in other countries reflecting both the long history of sheep production and the variety of climatic conditions within the UK. We have some 60 pure breeds, and numerous crossbreeds, producing wool of different styles and quality. One of the features of British wool, which makes it in demand for interior furnishings, especially carpets, is its natural bulk and resilience.
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