Protesting British farmers vowed to continue to “burn and bury” sheep wool as low material prices have left the industry at “real risk”.
The wool, most of which is sold in bulk through trade board British Wool, has seen a long-term price slump – meaning sales are “not worth it” for UK producers.
Jade and Richard Bett, sheep farmers from Lincolnshire, said throwing their wool on bonfires was a decision made “out of protest as well as practicality”.
They described the payment made by British Wool for their produce was “measly”, and said it was “not viable” to send to the trade body.
Farmers like the Betts have taken to burning their wool on bonfires in response to ‘measly’ prices
“It’s a sad situation… I might get a cheque for £30 – I’ve got to take my time and transport it – It’s not worth it,” Jade Bett told the BBC.
The ‘wool cheque’ paid out by British Wool for farmers’ efforts used to be enough to cover their rents for a year – but no longer, the National Sheep Association’s Nicola Noble said.
Wool burnt in protest at prices was a “real risk to the whole industry”, she continued.
Noble said: “If everyone has that attitude of ‘it’s costing me too much money to send it, I’m going to burn it and bury it’, then British Wool is no more.”
British Wool’s ‘wool cheque’ used to be enough to pay rents on sheep farms like this for a whole year
Despite its marketing as an up-market, sustainable fabric, wool has seen a decades-long threat from mass-produced synthetic materials.
Synthetics are much cheaper and less labour-intensive to produce and have eaten up wool’s market share as a result.
Covid-19 saw a sharp drop-off in wool prices; the pandemic saw the average price per kg for fleeces sink by 50 per cent from 60p to 32p.