Following the publication of the feasibility study on the Irish wool sector, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) is calling on the agriculture minister and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to immediately convene a meeting of all stakeholders in the wool industry, in order to establish a wool council for the whole island of Ireland.

Vice-president of the INHFA, Pheilim Molloy outlined how one of the key recommendations in the report was the establishment of an all-island wool council to help develop an Irish-grown wool brand.

“This is something the INHFA supports and are certain that farmers throughout the country will back, on the understanding that it can deliver an improved price for their wool,” Molloy stated.

Wool industry

He added that there are currently almost six million sheep on the whole island of Ireland which could provide a substantial volume of wool.

“This wool can be utilised in many different ways such as bed clothing and clothing including: Personal safety clothing; insulation; carpets; furniture coverings; natural air filtration; composting; and pelleting as a natural fertiliser,” he explained.

“In addition to these Lanolin which is used extensively in the cosmetics industry is a very valuable by-product of the wool scouring process.”

With regard to further research and critical infrastructure, Molloy stressed the need for third level institutions to be involved in ongoing research so that other products can be identified which will further strengthen the demand, and price for wool.

“Beyond this, we also need to see the establishment of a wool scouring facility within the island of Ireland as soon as possible so that the true value of wool can be achieved,” he said.

“As outlined in the report, market returns for wool have been impacted by a highly fragmented market with individual farmers mainly selling raw wool directly to domestic and large UK-based wool merchants with operations in Ireland.

“The handling and presentation of wool is an issue that needs to be addressed and we welcome the recommendation that training courses be provided for this purpose.”

The INHFA vice-president pointed to the recent announcement by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to include Northern Ireland in the application for protected geographical indication (PGI) status for ‘Irish Grass Fed Beef‘.

“This illustrates how farmers across the Island can benefit from working together and there is no doubt that an all-island wool council can play a critical role in delivering better market returns for wool across the Island – so let’s get this moving,” Molloy concluded.