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Welsh producers hear of world wool shortage

08
Jul '09
A world shortage of wool, with supplies at their lowest level for 50 years, and wider recognition among consumers of wool's carbon footprint, were positive signs that could trigger improved wool prices for sheep farmers.

At a producers' meeting organised by the British Wool Marketing Board in St Asaph, North Wales farmers were told there had been an unprecedented demand for wool at the Board's final wool auction sales of the season. This resulted in the total clearance of the entire 2008 UK wool clip – the first time that has been achieved in the Board's history.

“There's very little wool in the world at the moment with the Australian and New Zealand clips at their lowest for 50 years. In the UK we've seen a drop in the annual clip from 50 million kilos in 1990 to 32 million kilos last year,” Welshpool farmer Tom Tudor, Welsh Northern Board Member of the British Wool Marketing Board, told the meeting.

This year's annual UK clip was expected to be around 30.8 million kilos and while the tightening of supplies of wool across the world would hopefully bolster demand, the less wool that was handled by the BWMB put continued pressure on the organisation's handling costs.

“The Board has undertaken a rigorous overhaul of its depot structure and staffing to keep a lid on handling costs as supplies of wool have fallen.

“The UK sheep sector is going through a period of change but there are positive signs on the horizon and an effective and producer-driven wool marketing organisation like the Wool Board will provide the stability producer's need to handle and market their wool.

“And don't forget that the Wool Board has done an amazing job in shearing training. In Wales its shearing courses have trained over 3000 shearers,” said Mr Tudor.

His rallying call to farmers followed the presentation of some hard facts about the Wool Board's operation from Sussex farmer Frank Langrish, Chairman of the British Wool Marketing Board.

“A lot of farmers still don't appreciate that the Wool Board is a co-operative that markets wool on behalf of sheep producers. It does not sell wool for its own gain, it purely acts as an agent for farmers,” said Mr Langrish.

He told the meeting that 10% of the entire UK clip was produced by just 1% of sheep farmers and that 58% of UK flocks were responsible for producing less than 500 kg of wool each year.

“Farmers are unaware of many of the costs involved in handling wool. In addition to the main cost (relating to the depot handling costs which accounts for 75% of the total cost) there is also the cost of marketing, research, shearing training etc.

“The Board has 600,000 wool sheets worth £1.2M. Every year many go missing – and are even used by some producers to supply wool to export buyers. This costs the Board almost £120,000 a year.”

Mr Langrish said depot restructuring had reduced the number of depots from 27 in 1990 to its current level of 13 as part of the Board's cost-cutting overhaul.


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