For the first time in three years the British Wool Marketing Board has unsold stocks amounting to almost 4m kg, said managing director Ian Hartley.

Speaking at the board’s grading depot in Galashiels, Mr Hartley said the wool was of saleable quality, but the selling season, which closed last week, had been considerably more difficult than previous ones.

Because Britain produced less than 5% of world wool, it was unable to influence the international market, which had suffered through generally reduced demand and little activity in China, he said.

The weakness of the US dollar has severely affected demand and price for wool and, furthermore, British wool could not compete with New Zealand values, which hit a 30-year low during the winter.

Consequently, the price indicator dropped from 81p/kg to 75p/kg and this was reflected in the disappointing wool cheque, with an average 45p/kg paid to farmers this year.

But Mr Hartley added that British wool prices were still the highest in Europe, with French producers lucky to receive 23p/kg and even lower values elsewhere.

Speaking to sheep farmers earlier this month, John Vipond, SAC sheep specialist, said wool prices were “ridiculous”, adding that it cost Scottish farmers £2 a head to grow a fleece.