'Worthless' wool more valuable as fertiliser, says Shropshire farmer

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Fleeces to be used for fertiliserImage source, John Burt
Image caption,
David Jones will use almost 500 fleeces for fertiliser rather than sell them at a loss

A Shropshire farmer is using wool as fertiliser as the retail value has become "virtually worthless".

David Jones, whose family has been farming around the Long Mynd for generations, says the price of wool does not even cover the cost of shearing his sheep.

"Our sheep cost £1 to shear and we get about 15-30p a fleece," he said.

Sales have been declining for decades. However, coronavirus means the global market has been closed since February.

In the past, Mr Jones said selling wool would cover a year's rent, "but now it wouldn't cover a tyre for my tractor".

He and his family decided to compost almost 500 of their fleeces and use them as fertiliser, where the material would be more valuable.

John Burt, from Plowden, helps with the annual shearing and said he was "horrified" to "just throw the fleeces over the fence" rather than pack them for sale.

"I couldn't believe what wool was selling for," he said, adding there was a huge "discrepancy between what the public are paying [for wool products] and what farmers are being paid".

Image source, British Wool
Image caption,
British Wool said the market had been "difficult for a number of years"

British Wool said the costs of the products lay in processing the wool and the pandemic had made this a particularly bad year.

Mr Burt has written to his local MP Philip Dunne as well as the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for more to be done to support sheep farmers.

He and Mr Jones are hoping for a commitment from the government to use more British wool, either in the £2bn home insulation grant announced for August or in carpeting public buildings.

British Wool said it was also lobbying the government for more support.

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