An article published today on the BBC website reports on the drop in British Wool prices in recent months to the point where it is not even worth the cost of shearing, or the petrol to drive it to the British Wool depot to auction.
Coronavirus has pushed this over the edge but the price of wool has been exceedingly low for years, many local farmers we know have told us they lose money on it. The price they get does not cover the shearing costs, however it’s still worth selling as it at least mitigates it a small amount. Selling the meat as well as selling sheep for breeding purposes are the main sources of revenue from the animal.
Sheepskin has long been just a waste product entirely with most just going to landfill and the farmers getting nothing for it – the manufacturing costs for British Sheepskin rugs are purely in the processing, transport, tanning and finishing.
This is not a good thing for those of us selling British Wool products.
The cost of our raw materials may drop in a year’s time and so possibly jumper prices – I say ‘possibly’ as a large part of the cost of wool yarn is in the processing, whether the reduction of raw material costs will be passed on is yet to be seen. You can see our summary of the processing of British Wool here.
But we need the whole supply chain to be paid a decent price in order for British Wool to continue to exist. If the farmers can’t afford to farm sheep, if the price of meat also drops, then they may have to consider other animals or uses for their land. This will be a sad day for British Wool as we will then have to import wool, or shift to other materials such as oil based man-made materials, imported cotton or other natural materials, all of which have supply issues which must be considered.
Wool is the original super material, it’s natural, biodegradable, breathable, stain resistant, hard wearing – this is why it’s important we continue to use it. And by using British Wool it’s also local, so the air or land miles to transport it are reduced.
For a sustainable future we do of course need to consider our meat consumption and use of livestock in this country, but we believe that wool still plays an important part. Even with a reduction in livestock, there is plenty of wool we are not using. Using what we have can reduce the amount of other materials we import.
Consumers can help by actively looking for and purchasing British Wool products – be that clothing, bedding, carpets or even more innovative wool products such as laundry balls and wall insulation. Increased British Wool demand can bring up the price of wool and help secure the future of British sheep farmers.
For our part we’re trying to create more British Wool products in addition to our British Wool knitwear and Harris Tweed accessories. This includes working with Yorkshire mills to manufacture a range of British Wool tweed caps which we hope to have on sale in the next couple of months.
We’ve also had and continue to have conversations with wool manufacturers and farmers to try and find new and innovative ways we can use this amazing natural material in a sustainable manner and ensure the wool industry is fit for the future.