Most agricultural produce has been hit by Covid-19 in some form or another and British Wool is the latest to fall victim with prices expected to be significantly lower this year due to reduced demand from China and a mass hangover of stocks.

With the global cross-bred wool market having been closed since the beginning of March after slowing significantly in February, British Wool has circa 7m kg extra of unsold 2019 clip wool on top of the circa 3m kg that would normally be carried over at this time.

The market closed in New Zealand at the same time, therefore, their wool agents and auctions also have significant unsold stock.

“The severe, hopefully short-term, drop in demand for wool products coupled with the huge global overhang in cross-bred wool stocks from the 2019 season is likely to severely impact prices for the next 12-18 months,” said Joe Farren, chief executive of British Wool.

“It will also make our longer term objective of repositioning British Wool as a premium product more challenging. However, finding new demand for our wool in China at attractive prices will be a key driver of the early stages of recovery in British Wool prices.

“Producers can be assured that British Wool will be at the forefront of leading the growth and renewal of wool values, but this will take time. We will emerge stronger from this period, in particular because our China-based product development strategy will be further advanced, helping to pull prices up out of the trough.”

Mr Farren added that despite these challenging situations, British Wool continues to represent the best interests of wool producers by maintaining a service to its producers, working with the industry on the shearing shortage and moving to a remote on-line auction.

British Wool also achieved a major new buyer in the auction room taking 1m+ kg and a number of smaller buyers from China and India, prior to the market shutting.

However, while these short term challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to continue to affect the industry for much of 2020, Mr Farren concluded that depots and head office are operating and British Wool is collecting and receiving wool as usual, with protocols in place to ensure the safety of producers as well as staff.