FARMERS in Powys should be supported to diversify if the price of wool keeps dropping, say Plaid Cymru

Glantwymyn County Cllr and Plaid Cymru spokesman Elwyn Vaughan says "farmers are being fleeced”, with the price of wool much lower than average this year, making it uneconomical in many cases to even shear sheep.

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, has asked Members of the Senedd, Helen Mary Jones MS and Llyr Hughes Griffiths MS to raise the concerns with the Economic Minister Ken Skates.

“The price of wool is tremendously low with many hill farmers only going to receive 15p/kg as a result of 9m kgs of unsold stock held by the British Wool Board since last year", Cllr Vaughan said.

"That is a further blow to the farming sector at a time of huge uncertainties. It is imperative therefore that the Economic Minister considers all opportunities to assist British Wool and the producers not only in the short term, but also support and facilitate the development of new uses and adding value to this natural fibre here in Wales.

"At present all the wool is sold through auctions held by the British Wool Board at Bradford and the price is far too often influenced by the strength of the New Zealand dollar and the purchasing policy of the Chinese. We need to look at developing new markets and opportunities closer to home, at adding value, at manufacturing here in Wales and developing local supply chains rather that treat is as another cheap commodity for others to make a profit from."

Cllr Vaughan added: "In the past I assisted the Board in looking at such opportunities as the production of wool insulation for homes and premises and I think there are more such initiatives that could be taken. We should emulate such examples as WRONZ, the Wool Research Organization of New Zealand here in Wales thus ensuring innovation and drive to maximize the potential of this natural, renewable, sustainable fibre.

"We have a long history with wool in Mid Wales with depots still at Dinas Mawddwy, Newtown and Brecon and what better area to establish such a facility for the future.”

The County Times put the issue of diversification to Economy Minister Mr Skates at the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus press conference.

Mr Skates said: "We've invested through Business Wales and direct support schemes that the Welsh Government operate and many many agricultural schemes to help them diversify, particularly within the tourism sector.

"We've offered them support through schemes such as the Tourism Investment Support Scheme to businesses within rural Wales to diversify and we will go on doing so. I think it's absolutely vital to recognise that businesses that have already diversified are able to get support through the Economic Resilience Fund and we've made available a huge amount of money to rural businesses to farms that have diversified and added to their current practices, opportunities within the visitor economy.

"We provided for example, through the first phase of the Economic Resilience Fund more than £11m to the tourism and hospitality sector, many of businesses of which are in rural parts of Wales, traditionally based on agriculture and farming but have diversified in recent years, and we will go on supporting those businesses during the second phase of the fund as we look to the third phase we will look at supporting diversification and business growth as part of the recovery process.