An all-island Irish Grown Wool Council, IGWC, has been formed, bringing together stakeholders from both sides of the border to focus on improving the Irish wool sector.
Its “clear and concise” brief is to create additional value in the total wool value chain and ensure that “a fair” proportion of that value makes its way to the primary producer.
Stakeholders at a “very well attended” stakeholders’ meeting selected the first IGWC, at Athlone Springs Hotel on Wednesday, April 5th, 2023.
Its vision is to bring wool stakeholders across the island of Ireland together to realise the potential of Irish Grown Wool as a natural, sustainable, and versatile material.
It hopes to build on its “rich” heritage, enhance the understanding and appreciation of the characteristics of Irish-grown wool, improve the quality and sustainability of Irish-farmed wool, facilitate collaboration in product and market research, and ultimately apply innovative product solutions.
The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine’s Review of Market Opportunities for Irish Grown Wool Based Products 2022 report states that across the world, natural fibres are receiving attention for their sustainability and unique natural properties.
Sheep’s wool, an IGWC spokesperson outlined, is no exception and is one of the natural and renewable resources widely used in a range of applications and a unique composition that makes it applicable to many markets, including horticulture, packaging, insulation, textiles, cosmetics, filled products and composites.
“Wool is currently seen as an undervalued by-product of lamb meat production in Ireland, and it costs more to shear a sheep than would be received in revenue for the fleece.”
“When additional costs, such as scouring (cleaning) the fleece is factored in, it currently makes for an uneconomic business model.”
“The Irish Grown Wool Council is now looking forward to progressing the opportunities that exist to develop products from sheep’s wool. Technical expertise is required to support these developments.”
Additionally, as also recommended in the DAFM report, a wool research and innovation hub (‘R&I Hub’) has also been created.
Initially, it is being facilitated by Circular Bioeconomy Cluster Southwest at Munster Technological University, MTU Tralee and the Irish Grown Wool Council has reaffirmed its commitment to direct and support the R&I Hub.
The R&I Hub will provide research, development and innovation support to farmers, sole traders, enterprises, and those wishing to make the best use of this natural Irish-grown resource.
Through these developments, the Irish Grown Wool Council aims to “add value right across the supply chain” from farm to end product.
Irish Grown Wool Council members include the following:
- Chris Weiniger, Donegal Yarns;
- Eve Savage, Education & Outreach Manager Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South West, Munster Technological University;
- Sean McNamara, ICSA national sheep chairman;
- Lorna McCormack, Director, Wool in School;
- Sean Moriarty, Kerry Lamb & Wool Co-op;
- Pheilim Molloy, INHFA, Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association;
- Clare McGovern, Rhyme, Sustainable Irish Wool Designer;
- Sandra King, Irish Fibre Crafters;
- David Heraty, ISSA, Irish Sheep Shearers; Association & Romney Flock;
- Jane Harkness Bones, Ulster Wool;
- George Graham, ISSA Shearing Training and Farm Safety;
- John Joe Fitzgerald, hill sheep farmer
- Deborah Evers, Strategic Planning & Comms (previously Project BAA BAA);
- Tom Dunne, ISSA Independent;
- Kevin Dooley, Dooley Wool Merchants;
- Kevin Comiskey, Chair IFA National Sheep;
- Pat Coffey, Coffey Wool Exports;
- Matthew Carroll, Suck Valley Farm, Galway Wool Co-op;
- Fergal Byrne, ICSA Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association, organic sector;
- Daryl McLaughlin (Alastair Armstrong), Ulster Farmers’ Union ;
- Pat Byrne, Facilitator, The Agile Executive.