Wool prices have rocketed on the back of tightening supplies and growing demand worldwide.
The situation has now got to the point where the British Wool Marketing Board has had to cancel its upcoming auctions as a result of the shortage of UK-produced wool.
Prices have soared from 73p/kg in October to 113p/kg in recent weeks – a 55% rise – taking wool values to their highest level for 15 years.
“This is fantastic news for British sheep producers. Up until October we were selling 1.2m-1.5m kilograms of wool at each sale,” explains the board’s chairman, Frank Langrish.
“But once most of the season’s wool was out the way, supply dried up and prices rocketed. Now we just haven’t got enough to sell.”
All producers who have stuck with the BWMB to market their fleece will see the benefit in their balance payments, even allowing for the fact that 65% of the UK clip was sold before the price increase.
As well as increased demand for wool due to the rising cost of oil-derived man-made fibres, much of the hike in values is down to the overall decline in sheep numbers worldwide, according to Mr Langrish.
“Australia’s flock is now at its lowest level for a century and New Zealand’s sheep numbers have dropped from 70m at their peak to just 20m today.
“That’s had a massive impact on worldwide supply with the effect that I believe this year’s season average will settle at about 90p/kg.
“That means your average Cheviot or Romney fleece could be bringing in £3.50 to £4 per ewe – at last most producers will be covering their shearing costs and clearing a profit on their wool.”