Sheep farmers turn to the Greens for help on wool prices

Denis O'Sullivan taking part in the Sheep Shearing and woll handling Championships at the 2011 Sheep and Wool festival in Cillin Hill Kilkenny over the weekend. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Denis O'Sullivan taking part in the Sheep Shearing and woll handling Championships at the 2011 Sheep and Wool festival in Cillin Hill Kilkenny over the weekend. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Freshly sheared sheep. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Siobhán English

Sheep farmers are turning to the Green Party in a bid to reverse the slump in wool prices.

With the shearing season in full swing, farmers are again braced for poor returns for their wool, which is being quoted at as little as 50c/kg by Irish merchants.

With shearing costing €2-3 per head depending on flock size, farmers are looking at being out of pocket per sheep that produces between 2kg and 2.5kg of wool.

Sales to China, which was once a leading buyer, have plummeted, and there are few other avenues in which to market the product.

"Something needs to be done about it urgently and we are asking for the Green Party to step in and help," said John Brooks, former chairman of the sheep section of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association.

"The issue is not being addressed properly and farmers are losing out every year. There must be ways of putting Irish wool to good use so that farmers are properly paid for it, instead of them being out of pocket. Right now the farmers are suffering."

Mr Brooks said that Irish wool is a fantastic product and could be used for insulating homes instead of synthetic fibres which are not good for the environment.

Mr Brooks and his colleagues have already met with Green Party members, including Councillor Pippa Hackett, who runs an organic farm on the Laois/Offaly border.

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"Wool has been ignored as a product for too long," she said. "It is a green, low-carbon, sustainable, biodegradable product, and it has some unique properties in terms of insulation and cleanliness."

Ms Hackett also said that Ireland could do more to market this product.

"I believe Ireland could be a leader in promoting wool - whether in textiles, insulation, packaging or fertiliser," she said. "All we need is the political will and some innovation to get this off the ground, but unfortunately it is not there… yet.

"Sheep farmers deserve better, and it would be fantastic to see wool become the valued product it once was."

Vincent Pierce of Laurence Pierce Wool Merchants in Rathdrum said that the outlook is bleak for Irish wool.

"It has been bad for the past few years and it doesn't look good this year either," he said.

"The Chinese are not buying anything at the moment, and there will be a glut of wool in Britain in late July so the Irish wool will have to be sold by then."

Farm body pushes for wool's use in insulation as prices plummet

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