The wool board told Welsh farmers to "use us or lose us" as falling wool stocks and exports to Ireland threaten its future.
The British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) has the power to make all sheep producers in the United Kingdom (UK) with more than four sheep sell their wool to it. But European Union regulations allow farmers to bypass the board and sell their wool to companies outside the UK for export.
Frank Langrish, chairman of BWMB, warned more than 60 Welsh farmers this week that sales to private exporters would damage the long-term future of everyone in the wool industry. "We have been facing falling wool stocks for some time because of falling sheep numbers in the UK, this has already had an impact on costs. This has been made worse by farmers selling wool to private buyers, which has further reduced the amount coming in. This means that costs go up. The more wool we can get in, the lower we can keep the costs. My message to farmers in Wales is to use us or lose us; once we are gone, a cooperative like this will never be back, which will leave wool producers on their own."
Langrish said wool stock coming to the board had fallen from 53m kilos in 1990 to the 29m kilos projected for this year. This has seen the staff go from 400 to 170.
His views were repeated last week by BWMB vice chairman Gethin Havard who said, "There have been those producers who have sold their wool outside the BWMB scheme this year. I wonder if they know what a happy Christmas they have given to the exporters who have taken their wool at low prices and are now undermining the market by selling to customers that would have come to buy wool from the board's auctions. With no marketing infrastructure to maintain, no depots, no shearing training and no research and development into British wool, the exporters are doing nothing more than piggy-backing on those producers who remain loyal to the BWMB's support of the sheep industry."
Reprinted in part from Daily Post.co.UK