British Wool CEO Andrew Hogley believes that the organisation’s wool auction system remains fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world.

“If anything, it is even more relevant today than was the case prior to this point,” he explained to Agriland.

“An increased number of organisations are now taking part in each of our 20 annual auctions. We have moved to a wholly online system, which makes the entire process more effective and convenient for those participating.

“Moreover, demand for wool is on the increase.

“Both of the UK’s two wool scouring operations remain committed to the auction. Buyers from across Europe regularly take part in the auction. And, obviously we are keen to expand this network further,” he added.

Wool sold at auction

Prior to the health pandemic, almost one third of the wool sold at auction was destined for China.

Andrew Hogley said he is very keen to build on this potential for the future but notes that this must not undermine the existing wool processing industry in the UK.

He is quick to confirm that Covid-19 hit British Wool very hard indeed.

“The wool market floored,” he confirmed. “We are a farmer-owned co-op, which comprises British Wool and Ulster Wool, based in Northern Ireland.

“We receive no support funding from government whatsoever. So the organisation has to stand on its own two feet from a financial point of view.”

One of the fist decisions taken by the British Wool management team during the pandemic was to reduce its cost base.

To this end, the number of wool grading centres was reduced from 12 to eight.

“Muckamore in Co. Antrim is the only grading centre in Northern Ireland,” Hogley commented.

“It is operated by Ulster Wool and was not impacted at all by the cost-saving measures introduced across the other parts of the UK.”

Future for wool

Looking to the future, Andrew Hogley believes that wool will once again, become the fashion fibre of choice.

“Designers and the public at large now want to wear clothes made from natural materials. Traceability is another growing requirement within the world of fashion and design,” he said.

“The good news for sheep farmers is that British Wool delivers on both these counts.

“Consumers do not want to be associated with products that pollute our oceans with microplastics,” he added.

“Wool can be used in the production of high-quality clothing, fabrics and carpets. British Wool has a tremendous story to tell. And the opportunities to do just that will present themselves in a post-pandemic world.”