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    • The value of sheep wool has plummeted in recent years from 87p a kilo to 33p  
    • Shepherd Stuart Fletcher, 40, from Stonegate, East Sussex, forced to compost 
    • Half of British wool remains in the UK while 25 per cent is sold to Chinese market

    Farmers are turning ‘worthless’ woollen fleeces into compost because prices have plunged by more than 60 per cent a kilo as export markets closed amid Covid-19

    The value of sheep wool has plummeted in recent years from 87p a kilo in 2015 to 33p this year as export markets closed amid the pandemic and consumers opt for synthetic fibres. 

    Shepherd Stuart Fletcher, 40, from Stonegate, East Sussex, has been force to compost 600 fleeces this year and described how it was a ‘tragedy’ to be burning a ‘completely biodegradable product’. 

    The value of sheep wool has plummeted in recent years from 87p a kilo in 2015 to 33p this year as export markets closed amid the ongoing pandemic and consumers opted for synthetic fibres. Pictured: Fleeces piled in South Wales 

    The father-of-four, who runs Fletcher’s Flock, told The Sunday Times: ‘It is a magical fibre that scientists have never been able to replicate. And yet we wear plastic clothes, everything’s wrapped up in plastic, and here we are composting it.’  

    Mr Fletcher brought the issue to public attention with a post on social media showing his fleeces piled up. It was shared 24,000 times.

    Speaking in July, he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I just happened to put it on our Facebook page because I thought people should know about it and it went crazy.

    ‘Everybody is saying we want this stuff, we think it’s a brilliant product, where can we get it?’ 

    But due to the virus, the price offered is now often worth less than the fuel the farmers would use to drive it to the depot. Pictured: Fleeces piled in South Wales

    But due to the virus, the price offered is now often worth less than the fuel the farmers would use to drive it to the depot. Pictured: Fleeces piled in South Wales

    Previously, farmers would shear their livestock and take the remains to British Wool, previously known as the British Wool Marketing Board to sell.

    But due to the virus, the price offered is now often worth less than the fuel the farmers would use to drive it to the depot.

    They are dealing with the pile up by either burning the wool or using it for compost.

    The UK produces nearly 22,000 tons of wool every year from about 45,000 farmers who tend more than 32 million sheep – one for every two people.

    The UK produces nearly 22,000 tons of wool every year from about 45,000 farmers who tend more than 32 million sheep – one for every two people. Pictured are sheep in Derbyshire

    The UK produces nearly 22,000 tons of wool every year from about 45,000 farmers who tend more than 32 million sheep – one for every two people. Pictured are sheep in Derbyshire 

    Shearing is principally done for the welfare of the animal and must be carried out annually, costing up to £2 per sheep. 

    Wool from each year’s harvest, or ‘clip’, is sold a year later by British Wool and this year the market was shut in February.  

    Half of British wool remains in the UK while 25 per cent is sold to the Chinese market while the rest is sold across the world to markets including Europe and Japan.     

    Farmers are dealing with the pile up by either burning the wool or using it for compost. Pictured: Fleeces set on fire in South Wales

    Farmers are dealing with the pile up by either burning the wool or using it for compost. Pictured: Fleeces set on fire in South Wales

    In August British Wool said it hoped to emerge out of the slump in a stronger position, but needed the farmers support to be able to do that.

    A spokesman said: ‘Given the situation we find ourselves in, we have had to place a value on this unsold stock which is at a significant discount to the last prices sold.

    ‘We are asking producers to support us through this very difficult season by bringing their wool into us so that we can preserve the volume use of Ulster wool downstream, further develop our new Ulster wool-rich product ranges and emerge from the Covid-19 slump ready to exploit a strengthening market.

    Wool from each year's harvest, or 'clip', is sold a year later by British Wool and this year the market was shut in February

    Wool from each year’s harvest, or ‘clip’, is sold a year later by British Wool and this year the market was shut in February

    ‘Without the consolidation of wool into commercial volumes through Ulster Wool and our continuing to market it more and more effectively, the prospect will be for lower prices indefinitely.

    ‘We will emerge stronger from this period, so long as wool producers stay together and continue to back their organisation.’ 

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