Speaking at the 2011 Sheep and Wool Festival held Cillin Hill, Kilkenny this weekend, Liam Aylward MEP and author of the European Parliament Report on the Future of the Sheep and Goat sector, urged sheep farmers to look to capitalising on potential profits from the 5th quarter.
 
“As I highlighted in my Report on the Future of the Sheep and Goat sector there is potential for sheep farmers with the 5th Quarter.  Consumers are seeking natural and sustainable fibres.  The large textile buyers are increasingly turning to wool, as a sustainable and attractive textile, to meet this demand.  There is a market there that sheep farmers can capitalise on.”
 
At present, New Zealand and Australia, key players in the wool trade are experiencing a dramatic downturn in sheep production, with numbers down 35 million sheep this year to date.  At present Australia has the lowest wool production in over ten years which is creating a gap in the market that Irish sheep farmers can fill with high quality product.
 
The trading price for wool and the price paid to farmers have risen considerably over the past three years. Wool prices in 2009 in Ireland were on average 40 to 50c/kg and this year they are on average €1.25/kg, with some breeds (Cheviot sheep) reaching €1.65/kg.
 
“There has been increased demand in 2011 from China and Russia for wool and the market trends show sustainable textiles such as wool increasing in popularity.  The European Commission Advisory Group for Sheep and Goat Meat have also forecasted a booming wool and leather market for the coming year.   With its low carbon foot print and flexibility in processing wool is becoming increasingly attractive to both designers and consumers.”
 
“The sheep sector is essential to the economic and environmental well-being of rural Ireland and it is essential that Irish sheep farmers take every opportunity to keep this important sector alive and vibrant.”