DESPITE the short term challenges facing the wool sector and the economy in general as result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the clear message this week from Joe Farren, CEO at Ulster Wool, is that its depot and head office function are operating and Ulster Wool is collecting and receiving wool as usual.
As we head towards the shearing season, Ulster Wool’s depot and network of collection sites are ready to start receiving wool from producers – which, given the circumstances is quite an achievement. Following Government guidance relating to Covid-19, protocols are in place to ensure the safety of producers as well as Ulster Wool staff.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global wool market which affected Ulster Wool before the rest of the UK due to the reduced demand from the Chinese market in January. The global crossbred wool market slowed significantly in February and then shut completely at the beginning of March and remains closed.
February to May is normally the busiest selling period of the year and, as a result, there is circa 7m kgs extra of unsold 2019 clip wool on top of the circa 3m kgs that we would normally be carrying at this time of year.
The market obviously closed in New Zealand at the same time meaning that New Zealand wool agents and auctions will also be carrying significant unsold stock.
Joe said: “The severe, hopefully short term, drop in demand for wool products coupled with the huge global overhang in crossbred wool stocks from the 2019 season is likely to severely impact prices for the next 12-18 months. It will also make our longer term objective of repositioning our 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 Ulster Wool prices. We must be more determined than ever in this objective.
“Wool producers can be assured that Ulster Wool will be at the forefront of leading the growth and renewal of wool values, but this will take time.”
Despite the challenging situation on the global market, Ulster Wool continues to represent the best interests of wool producers and recently collaborated with industry partners to establish the Shearing Register and the Covid-19 checklist for shearers and farmers.
Joe added: “During these difficult and unprecedented times, Ulster Wool continues to be proactive – maintaining service to producers, working with the industry on
the shearing shortage and moving to a remote on-line auction.
“It’s important for producers, and the Northern Ireland sheep sector, to have confidence they can continue to rely on Ulster Wool as a trusted partner in providing a high level of service and in increasing wool returns for producers in the long term.”