Cumbrian farmers call for wool price increase

Cumbrian hill farmers are calling for more to be done to increase the market and price of wool.

It's fallen to lower than during the last recession, largely because many of the factories producing it have been out of action during lockdown.

The price of wool has been declining steadily for a number of years. The Covid-19 pandemic has put additional pressure on farmers.

Andrea Meanwell who farms sheep in Cumbria, told ITV Border,

"At its low price during the financial crisis wool got down to 33p per kilo, well now it's down to 15p per kilogram because of the coronavirus crisis, so you can see it has really dropped. It's never going to be our main income on a hill farm but it did used to cover the cost of the shearing but not this year. Some people are having to dump wool, I believe it's even worse on the Isle of Man where of course the transport costs are higher so they're just composting their wool."

China processes 70 percent of UK wool, but the factories closed when coronavirus hit.

Joe Farren, CEO of British wool said,

"Prices have also been very challenging since 2014: Brexit uncertainty certainly hasn't helped and the US-Chinese trade war that has been ongoing for the last two years. China processes 70% of the world's wool and the US has traditionally been its biggest export market and and with tariffs going on US imports of Chinese wool products that market essentially shut.

"In an already weak market we've seen prices fall more than 35% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic so all over the world there's been no wool selling so New Zealand has 25 million kilos of excess wool, we have 7. That all has to start to clear through the supply chain first before we can start to see a recovery."

Andrea Meanwell says she would like to see the government provide more support to the industry.

"We're seeing lots of initiatives from the Government around insulation at the moment, it would be great if some of this excess wool could be bought and manufactured into insulation. Perhaps the Government could buy up British wool as it did during the war: in the war it used to manufacture uniforms for the army, why not manufacture a free school uniform for every child in the UK from British wool, you know, to help us in our recovery. And farmers have been hoping that the public would turn back to wool and you know realise the value of wool but at the moment it doesn't seem to have happened so it can be quite frustrating really."

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