Wool prices have strengthened considerably since the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic measures in countries around the world.

However, British Wool CEO Andrew Hogley believes that the market has more to give.

“The hospitality sector, a very significant end user of the wool produced in the UK, shut down completely during the pandemic,” Hogley explained.

“Recent months have seen the likes of hotels and cruise-line operators starting to invest again in their businesses. As a consequence of this, demand for high-quality woollen carpets is increasing.

“This is good news for farmers, who will benefit from a stronger wool price in 2022. And we want to build on this for the future.”

Wool prices and production

Hogley also holds the position of CEO at Ulster Wool, which is based at Muckamore in Co. Antrim.

“Our aim is to make wool production a profitable enterprise for sheep producers,” he further explained.

“And to make this happen, the prices that we pay must cover the farmers’ shearing costs while also leaving an additional margin.”

Hogley believes that the cooperative structure of British and Ulster Wool represents the best model to allow this to happen.

“We are a farmer-owned business. By representing the combined interests of wool producers throughout the UK, we bring many strengths to the market place. Scale of operation is one of these; the ability to carry out marketing activities on behalf of an entire sector is another.

“British and Ulster Wool operates solely to secure the best possible prices that it can get for its farmer-members.

“Once our costs have been covered all the rest of the money goes back to the farmer members,” Hogley continued.

Grading is at the heart of the entire British and Ulster Wool operation. It is a process that allows the company to convert a single farmer’s wool clip, which can be measured in kilograms, into lots that are suitable for sale at auction.

Each of these weighs 8,000kg.

“This is a perfect example of farmers coming together for the greater good,” Hogley stressed.

Ulster Wool has 3,500 members. It handles between 55% and 60% of Northern Ireland’s wool clip.

“Ulster Wool is committed to working on behalf of all sheep farmers. A perfect example of this was the lobbying effort undertaken to secure a Covid-19 wool support package.

“Last July, farm minister Edwin Poots agreed a £1.2 million support package for wool. Every sheep producer in Northern Ireland was eligible for the scheme, which was devised on the back of the specific input and information supplied by the team at Ulster Wool.

“This is a perfect example of what can be achieved when farmers come together on a cooperative basis,” he concluded.