The first meeting of a new council to improve the economic viability of the wool industry has taken place.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), one of the stakeholder groups on the Wool Council, said that engagement at the first meeting was “beneficial”.

Kevin Comiskey, the IFA’s sheep chairperson, said this morning (Monday, December 19) that the council can play a key role in rewarding farmers at farmgate level for wool.

“There are huge opportunities to develop a unique brand for Irish wool and, crucially, add value to this renewable product for sheep farmers.”

According to Comiskey, the council meeting saw agreement that the inclusion of shearing as an action in the new Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS) “would be an essential starting point”.

He said: “The IFA has consistently pointed this out throughout the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] process, but the minister [Charlie McConalogue] and his officials have refused to include it.

“Farmers must be rewarded for presenting wool to merchants in optimum condition for further use. This is a vital starting point to having a saleable and [branded] product,” Comiskey added.

“The collapse in the wool market has made shearing economically unviable and has now become a significant production cost on farms.

“Without meaningful supports for wool, the council will face a huge obstacle at the very beginning,” he commented.

According to the IFA, the Wool Council is to reconvene in January with a view to electing officers to direct its activities.

The council will also be looking to set out a strategic plan on how best the council can promote the industry through research and marketing with the involvement of all stakeholders.

The establishment of an industry-led all-island council to champion the Irish-grown wool brand was one of the main recommendations of a report which was published in July.

The government-funded report stated that this group would develop and promote Irish wool domestically and internationally and bring together multiple stakeholders to foster collaboration, innovation and scaling activities in the sector.