Wool trade must not be overlooked

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The needs of the wool industry must be fully accounted for in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, according to British Wool Marketing Board chairman Ian Buchanan.

He cautioned against a change in trading conditions that would impact on the export of wool.

“China is a major destination for British wool,” he said.

“Currently, the tariffs associated with the export of product to that market are relatively small. So we need to ensure these trading conditions remain unchanged, once Brexit becomes a reality.”

Mr Buchanan confirmed that the recent weakening of sterling on the world’s money markets, the so-called Brexit effect, is helping to maintain UK wool prices at the present time.

“We certainly have a currency advantage over the likes of New Zealand at the present time,” he said.

Mr Buchanan admitted that prices paid at the most recent wool board auctions had softened to an extent.

“This reflects the drop in UK consumer confidence post-Brexit. We have also seen a continued cooling of the Chinese economy with an accompanying swing in Chinese fashion away from our finer micron wool to merino types.

“While we cannot directly influence global prices, we will be seeking to handle producers’ wool more cost effectively year after year to maximise their proceeds.”

Mr Buchanan said that enhancing efficiency levels throughout the board’s entire operation is a key a priority moving forward.

“This will impact positively on the way that we manage the grading centres and the range of services provided to farmers.

“We will also seek to make the auction more relevant, in delivering more competitive prices for wool producers. But, the good news is that significant potential exists to drive down our costs. This, in turn, should allow us to deliver stronger returns at farm level.”

Mr Buchanan admitted that the UK government’s plan to commence a major house building programme should be good news for the wool industry.

“But we need to educate the upcoming generation of new home owners about the quality of woollen carpets. And, again, this will be a key priority for the board moving forward.”

Mr Buchanan also confirmed that 2016 had been a challenging year from a wool production perspective.

“Many fleeces from around the UK contained a discernible yellow taint, which downgraded their quality from a carpet and apparel manufacturing perspective. And we do not know the cause of the problem. It might have been a weather related issue that arose in the early spring period: we just don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Walter Hoy, from Templepatrick has been elected to the British Wool Marketing Board, representing Co Antrim.

His three-year term begins on January 1st 2017.

The votes cast for the two candidates in the recent county election were as follows: Elected: Walter Hoy: 1768 votes. Not elected: James McHenry 918 votes

Following confirmation of the results Walter Hoy commented: “Being part of the sheep farming industry for over 40 years, I have nothing but admiration for the BWMB and the work it carries out on behalf of the producer. I’m looking forward to developing this opportunity and working with fellow producers to secure a better future for wool production in Northern Ireland”

Walter Hoy farms approximately 300 acres in and around Templepatrick. He presently farms over 1000 sheep including mules, blackface & Suffolk Texel cross. Having been previous Chairman of the Northern Ireland Sheep Shearers Association, Walter is no stranger to the shearing circuit and the BWMB.