New European Union (EU) rules on the storage of wool will force many small merchants out of the business, buyers warned. The new rules dictate that special floors and dividing walls be erected to isolate wool stocks from other products.
Wool is currently classified as a "Category 3" product -- or animal by-product -- and this has driven the EU and the Department of Agriculture decision to introduce the new storage restrictions.
"Since there was no wool lobbying taking place in Europe for the last couple decades, no one was watching this issue," commented Henrik Kuffner, director general of the International Wool Textile Organization (IWTO). "IWTO, through its lobby project, has officially taken over this role and has already begun the work to get wool redefined as a 'raw material' instead of a 'by product.'"
Galway wool merchant David Glynn said the regulations would drive many small buyers out of the trade. He fears the new EU rules will close him down.
"We are one of the few traditional family businesses still buying wool in this part of north Galway and south Mayo," he said. "I believe that many of the new regulations are coming from the EU. If they force more small wool buyers out of business in rural areas, it means the farmers will have to travel even further to sell their wool."
Glynn said a letter setting out the new storage restrictions was recently sent to merchants by the department.
"Official documentation requesting a chance of definition for wool was presented to the EU Parliament a couple weeks ago," continued Kuffner. "We have received positive feedback, and it seems that there is no controversy in regard to the request, which could allow for the change of regulation to pass through relatively quickly."
Staff contact: Rita Kourlis Samuelson, ext. 29