I mentioned a few stats last time but another interesting and thought provoking one was in 2014 only 1.3% of the fibre produced globally was made from wool. 62.9% was synthetic, 29.1% was cotton with cellulosic, silk, flax and other animal fibres making up the other areas.
When the board was established in 1950 there was 130,000 sheep farmers (producers) registered with the board. The board was created to encourage farmers to keep sheep for wool after World War Two. There was a price guarantee set by the government which dictated the price the farmers would receive for their fleeces.
An area which surprised me was just how much the BWMB try and help registered producers regardless of size of flock (58% producers produce less than 500kg fleece) or their location in the country.
One thing we all need to remember is that sheep must be sheared for welfare reasons, and so those costs are part and parcel of keeping sheep. The board provide an end to end service from providing the sheets (see part 1), collection of the fleeces from a farm (or a farmer can drop them off at a local depot), grading and auction.
In theory 'all' the farmer has do once a sheep has been clipped is to ensure their fleeces are packed into the sheets ready for collection. These sheets are huge and must be packed according to BWMB instructions. Having seen them being manually moved on a recent BBC programme 'This Farming Life' and read how unpopular they are on social media I can understand why producers might not be happy. Not just with the physicality of using them them but also in the time taken after a sheep has been sheared to correctly pack the fleece into the sheet. However, I can now appreciate and better understand why the BWMB insist on them having seen the process in action (more in Part 3).
The BWMB aims to achieve the best possible market price for British wool for the producers (don't forget the board is made up of farmers) and to make buying British wool as attractive prospect as possible to merchants. It does this by assisting merchants with things like haulage services and storage.
Also each and every green bale in an auction lot is scientifically tested to provide additional information to a buyer such yield, vegetable matter, micron count and colour. This not only ensures quality control but also provides much needed information so a buyer can make an informed choice on auction day. The services the BWMB provide make then unique.
|A lorry being loaded with sold lots|
Like I mentioned in part 1 British wool is such a tiny percentage of the global market. The BWMB are trying to go one step further and get British wool noticed on a global market by working together with producers. For that they certainly get my respect and thanks.
Part three will all be about the grading side.