Some sheep farmers have burned or composted fleeces to help offset wool handling and haulage costs, after Covid-19 caused the wool price to collapse.
It comes as the global wool market turmoil saw British Wool announce the average wool cheque price for 2019/2020 would be almost half (32p/kg) compared to last year (60p/kg), with about 9 million kg of unsold wool stock.
In contrast to independent wool merchants, the board stated no advance would be made on the 2020/2021 clip, with no forward price indication.
Concerned about the state of the market, farmers have opted for alternative disposal methods, burning and composting fleeces, to help offset further costs involved such as wool handling and haulage.
Will Sedgley, who farms 1050 Swaledales in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, said he was saddened to dispose of such a sustainable natural fibre for economic reasons.
He said: “Quality and price wise, swale wool is at the bottom of the pile.
“This year’s wool price reductions really rattled me so I decided it would be more economical to save on wool handling cost and time. While we plan to send in our Mule and Texel X fleeces, I remain doubtful the wool cheque will even cover the shearing cost, since it has not done so for a few years.”
Gerallt Hughes, who farms near Llangefni, Anglesey, also chose to dispose of the wool rather than sell it, composting 547 fleeces in total.
National Sheep Association chief executive officer, Phil Stocker, said: “If a farmer has undergone the costs of shearing and packing then the investment has been made and if the wool is of any quality it must surely make sense to store it or send it to British Wool.
"Remember that the payment made recently is the balance from last year – no advance payment is being made and no one yet knows what the value will be.”
The Environment Agency has reminded farmers wishing to burn or bury wool on-site as part of a business that they would need an environmental permit to do so.
Guidance on environmental permits can be found on their website.