Cumbrian farmers are set to benefit from a boom in British wool with the value of UK exports reaching nearly £200 million in 2014 - with exports to China doubling since 2013.
Last year, approximately 800,000kg of high quality wool was shorn from Cumbrian breeds, including Texel and Swaledale and the hardy Herdwick. UK exports of the fabric are now being shipped to 50 countries, more than ever before, including China and the United Arab Emirates.
With over 1,000 new wool producers established last year across the UK, and 1,200 flourishing in Cumbria, the wool industry is building skills, creating jobs and boosting local economies.
The news comes ahead of Environment Minister Rory Stewart’s visit to Cumbria today - a county with more sheep than people - for the Cumberland Agricultural Festival.
Commenting on the increased demand, Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:
Wool has been keeping us warm in the UK for hundreds of years, and it’s exciting to see our industry giving the likes of Australia and New Zealand a run for their money.
We’ve long led the pack in terms of fashion design so it’s only right our creative ideas can be made using sustainable, British raw materials. This is a great example of the huge contribution farming, including traditional hill farming in Cumbria, can make to our economy.
Wool is the latest UK export to be in high demand in China, following in the footsteps of salmon and whisky which boast export values of £64 million and £39 million, helping to create a strong brand for British produce both at home and abroad.
The Cumberland Agriculture Festival will be held on 6 June at Carlisle Racecourse.
The UK exported £199 million worth of wool and animal hair in 2014 to over 50 countries worldwide, including £84 million to non-EU markets. £30.503 million of wool and animal hair was exported to China in 2014 compared to £15.5 million in 2013.
Under the latest CAP reforms the government has equalised direct payment rates in the Severely Disadvantaged Areas such as Cumbria with those in the lowland, and has almost doubled the moorland direct payment rate, ensuring upland farmers with large areas of moorland are not put at a disadvantage. This means that Moorland farmers, who help protect some of England’s most unique landscapes, will receive about £26 more a hectare under CAP basic payments from 2015.
In 2014 UK exports to China totalled £64.2 million for Salmon and £39.2 million for whisky.