When it comes to a wool market in Ireland, the potential is there, it just needs to be exploited, according to Phelim Molloy of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).
Effectively, there is no wool market in Ireland at the minute, the INHFA Donegal representative told the Irish Farmers Journal.
“There are merchants who will take in wool, but if you’ve any distance to travel to sell it to them, the price would hardly pay the cost of transporting it.
“We’ve done a fair bit of research into wool and identified various uses for it on top of the traditional uses,” he said, adding that there are two companies in Ireland at the minute, one which uses wool for insulation and one which makes bed clothing, such as duvets.
“From the position of these two companies, they need wool that has been scoured, which to my knowledge is carried out offshore at the minute.
“We need to look at a scouring factory in Ireland in the future. We can’t be exporting it out for scouring and importing it back in,” Molloy, a Donegal sheep farmer from Glenswilly, said.
The INHFA, through the sheep census, has estimated that there is 10m kilogrammes of wool available annually in Ireland.
“That’s a substantial amount of wool. This is a natural product available in the country.
"Wool can be used as a natural fertiliser, it’s deemed to be a slug repellent and it can also be composted and it wouldn’t need scouring for some of those options.
“Wool can also be used as a fire retardant,” he said.
Structure for the wool industry
Molloy has said there needs to be a proper structure put in place for the wool industry, which identifies different uses for the wool and if that wool needs scouring.
“If an industry were to be set up, it would be most beneficial to the west of Ireland. We’ve a natural resource at our disposal which can be used to create employment. The only thing that needs to be put in place is a facility to scour it."
Some €100,000 was announced for a wool feasibility study under Budget 2021 and Molloy has said the INHFA has written to the Department outlining its research up to now and calling for the need for funding for market research for wool product.
He said the Department needs to look at alternative markets and called for a wool task force to be set up to tackle the issues in the wool sector.