SHEEP farmers have been warned that wool prices will be down 40% on the year this season and, for most, the return will not cover the cost of clipping. Introducing the 1999 price schedule in Scotland on Tuesday, British Wool Marketing Board chief executive Ian Hartley said the low wool cheque was going to hit hill farmers hard. They would receive little or no return for their clip.

He blamed the strength of the £ for the price decline. “Our biggest competitor in world markets is New Zealand and at one point last year the £ was 50% stronger against the NZ $ than it was two years ago.”

Scottish Blackface producers would receive 55p for the very best and 31.3p for heavy cast grade. But Blackface dark grey and black fleeces would return only 2p.