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The importance of British Wool

Joe Farren, British Wool CEO, explains the critical role British Wool performs in the UK sheep industry. 

Q: Is British Wool a profit making organisation?

A: Not in the traditional sense. Our profits are the returns we give to the 40,000 producers who send their wool to us. As a farming co-operative, we are owned by our producers – the returns we provide for our members recognise the true market value of the wool.

Q: How has competition changed over the past few years?

A: There has been a distinct change in competitive dynamics over the past 4-5 years. The ‘direct from farm’ Irish competition is now owned by the two largest downstream processors in the UK who actually buy from our auctions at Bradford. Their aim is to maximise profits through driving wool prices down in the long run and increasing their market share at our auctions.

Q: What would happen to wool prices if British Wool weren’t there?

A: Put simply, prices would plummet. If you look at the example of the Republic of Ireland, it does not have a British Wool alternative and the same direct from farm buyers who operate in the UK dominate the market. Prices there are typically 50% lower than those we return to our producers. Such a severe drop in wool prices in the UK would inevitably see the rates paid to shearing contractors come under pressure and drop significantly as a result. In addition, British Wool is the only company in the UK which will take any type of wool, therefore a significant number of producers would struggle to even find a buyer for their wool. This means more wool disposed of at landfill as it would be considered a waste product under existing environmental legislation.

Q: How can British Wool give better returns to producers for their wool?

A: The competition use our prices as a barometer and price at substantial discounts. Our aim is to maximise the value of our producer’s wool whereas the competition want to pay as low a price as possible to enhance their own profits. This is why British Wool have and will continue to offer consistently better returns than the competition. This price premium will increase over the coming years as our consumer marketing strategy matures and we increase our Chinese customer base through our Shanghai Office.

Q: What else do British Wool do for wool producers?

A: Firstly we make it easy and cost effective for producers to send their wool to us through our extensive depot network and haulier services. We are continuously looking to improve our service and make dealing with us as simple and easy for the producer as possible. For example, we are planning to launch a new easier to follow payment advice this season and also trialling pre-printed wool sheet labels in Northern Ireland.

Our sorting and grading service ensures producers get the full value for their wool when we sell through our auctions. We are also committed to supporting the future of the industry, training the next generation of shearers (at a cost of £100K pa) and encouraging the next generation of producers through initiatives such as our new entrants scheme.

British Wool is a powerful advocate for the industry with the general public and government, as evidenced by the release of our recent shearing guidance document alongside our industry partners (NSA, NFU, NAAC). We’re proud to champion the use of British wool, raising consumer awareness and increasing demand to make sure our producers receive the returns they deserve.

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The importance of British Wool Joe Farren, British Wool Chief Executive Officer
Sitting down with manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Standing up for producers Sitting down with manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Standing up for producers