With the sheep shearing season getting underway, Ulster Wool has announced it is operating as normal and its main depot and collection sites are ready to start receiving wool from producers.

However it is a challenging time to sell wool at present.

Joe Farren, CEO at Ulster Wool said that following Government guidance relating to Covid-19, protocols are in place to ensure the safety of producers as well as Ulster Wool staff.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global wool market which affected Ulster Wool before the rest of the UK due to the reduced demand from the Chinese market in January.

The global crossbred wool market slowed significantly in February and then shut completely at the beginning of March and remains closed. The period from February to May is normally the busiest selling period of the year and, as a result, there is around seven million kgs extra of unsold 2019 clip wool on top of the three million kgs that would normally be carrying at this time of year.

The market obviously closed in New Zealand at the same time meaning that New Zealand wool agents and auctions will also be carrying significant unsold stock.

Joe said: “The severe, hopefully short term, drop in demand for wool products coupled with the huge global overhang in cross bred wool stocks from the 2019 season is likely to severely impact prices for the next 12-18 months. It will also make our longer term objective of repositioning our wool as a premium product more challenging. However, finding new demand for our wool in China at attractive prices will be a key driver of the early stages of recovery in Ulster Wool prices. We must be more determined than ever in this objective.

“Wool producers can be assured that Ulster Wool will be at the forefront of leading the growth and renewal of wool values, but this will take time. We will emerge stronger from this period, in particular because our China based product development strategy will be further advanced and helping to pull prices up out of the trough.”

Despite the challenging situation on the global market, Ulster Wool continues to represent the best interests of wool producers and recently collaborated with industry partners to establish the Shearing Register and the Covid-19 checklist for shearers and farmers.

Joe added: “During these difficult and unprecedented times, Ulster Wool continues to be proactive – maintaining service to producers, working with the industry on the shearing shortage and moving to a remote on-line auction. Also, during the last year, we achieved a first major new buyer in the auction room for a decade (+1m kgs) plus a number of smaller buyers from China and India had started bidding at our auctions prior to the market shutting."