The Somerset farmers fighting for a British wool revival

  • Watch as farmers tell ITV News' India Wentworth about the challenges facing the wool industry

Somerset farmers say consumers need to invest in quality products for the British wool industry to survive.

As the weather gets warmer, sheep farmers are turning their attention to shearing. 

Wool may be a by-product of sheep farming but it is definitely not an easy source of extra income. 

It is a physically demanding job but that does not means there are great rewards.  

In the 1950s a farmer could get £14 per kilo of wool. Now it is worth less than a pound, depending on colour and quality. 

Shearing is a tiring job.

To put that into perspective, if you have a flock of 500 ewes you will only get a few hundred pounds from the wool. 

By the time farmers have paid shearers and labourers, farmers say they are actually losing money. 

This has led some farmers to burn their wool, and others to choose for breeds that shed their wool instead.

All of this raises questions over the future of the British wool industry. 

Andy farms in the Mendip Hills and has been shearing all around the world. Over the years, there has been a lot of change in the industry. 

Andy said: “With the wool industry… I guess it’s in a bit of a despondent mood. Farmers aren’t getting that much money for their wool.”

Recently, cheap imports and fast fashion have brought about a decline in the British wool industry 

The British Wool Marketing Board represents farmers in the international textiles industry. 

Andrew Hogley, CEO for the board, said despite many farmers feeling at a loss with the situation, things are starting to change. 

Andrew Hogley from the British Wool Marketing Board said there is a "shift" starting to happen.

He said: “I think we’re starting to see a shift. A lot of the key brands and manufacturers and sustainability people, are now starting to influence the purchasing decisions, the sourcing decisions of those organisations. 

“There’s more work to be done, but I can see that the momentum is starting to shift. And for the longer term that makes me feel a lot more positive and I do believe there’s a future for wool. 

Andy said: “For the wool industry to do well, and I think it needs to be looked at globally, we need the consumers to support us. 

“We need big businesses who are involved with the wool industry to stand up and state the case that natural fibres are much better than synthetics.”

Andy’s wife Jen Hunter makes products from their wool, to sell to a wider market. 

"We wanted to be price makers, rather than price takers"

Jen said: “We wanted to be price makers, rather than price takers back in 2008. 

“Andrew and myself really like to wear wool. To be able to sell your own products to a final consumer and they can feel the love you have for the sheep, and they take that with them, and they give the fleece a new life, it’s really special.”

Jen and Andy are now looking towards the future but training the future generation. 

Nancy Housego is studying textiles design at Central St Martin’s in London. She specialises in knitwear and wanted to focus on where her supplies were coming from. 

Nancy said: “Before I came here, I was actually working at a fast fashion brand in London that was specialising in knitwear, so it’s very different. 

Nancy is studying textiles in London.

“I think before I came here, I would have just been a designer in the fashion industry and I wouldn’t have been working well with the environment. 

“Now I’m a lot more conscious about what I’m doing and what I’m putting out there.”