The outcome of a review into potential new wool markets and woollen products for Irish sheep farmers, which had been due to be published by the end of March, will be published “in the coming weeks”, according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

Minister of State at the Department Senator Pippa Hackett announced details of the €100,000 wool feasibility study and the company selected to carry it out in November 2021.

The Agile Executive, a consortium comprising of experts from Munster Technological University and Donegal Yarns was tasked with carrying out the review. Speaking in November, Minister Hackett said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of the Agile Executive to conduct this review, which I expect to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.”

No outcome of the review has so far been published.

‘Coming weeks’

Responding to questions on the wool feasibility study from Catherine Connolly TD in the Dáil recently, Minister McConalogue said: “The expert group was contracted to conduct the review in accordance with the terms of reference. The final report has been received and is expected to be published in the coming weeks.”

Sheep shearing has already commenced across the country. / Philip Doyle

The Irish Farmers Journal has sought comment from Minister Pippa Hackett in relation to the delay and none has so far been provided.

Meanwhile, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) sheep chair Sean McNamara has called for the immediate publication of the review as “anger grows among sheep farmers due to ridiculously low wool prices in Ireland”.

McNamara pointed out that while wool prices are struggling internationally that “Irish wool prices are particularly bad”.

“Farmers in the north and Britain have received 36.4p/kg (42c/kg) for wool for 2021 which is double what Irish farmers are being offered, with quotes here coming in at in at 15c/kg to 20c/kg,” he said.

‘Urgent need’

The ICSA sheep chair said: “There is an urgent need for new thinking on how to increase the value of wool. The current inflationary environment is opening up opportunities for wool that may not have been economically viable up to now. Wool has a value as a fertiliser.

“The price of insulation is increasing rapidly in line with all construction costs and there is a real opportunity to capture that market using wool. However, as it stands farmers will not even be able to cover the cost of shearing again this year which is a total disgrace. Farmers are incredibly angry about this.”

McNamara expressed disappointment over the fact that the “much-anticipated” wool feasibility study has yet to be published.

“We were promised the study would be delivered early in the year. Minister McConalogue has now said it will be published in the coming weeks, but we have a lot of ground to make up if we are to breathe life back into the wool industry and give sheep farmers a decent return in the process.

“The study must function as a launch pad for the wool sector, and serious investment and action must follow,” he said.