AFTER a tumultuous few months, the wool market is returning to stability with rising prices at the last two BWMB auction sales of British wool.

Speaking at BWMB’s annual conference in Edinburgh, chairman Malcolm Corbett told delegates that the wool market had been a victim of its own success in the previous six months.

“Strong wool prices last year and in the first quarter of this year led to slowing sales and lower clearance rates at BWMB auctions,” he said.

“As a result, the market dipped below where we expected it to be – the Board Sales Indicator fell from a high of 184p/kg last year to 112p/kg, before rising to 118p/kg at the last sale on the back of an improved New Zealand market.”

Mr Corbett said tough trading conditions across the world had led to the market dip.

He said: “The UK carpet market is struggling with low consumer confidence and the Chinese market has slowed dramatically, leading buyers to try to force prices down.”

But, with little demand, BWMB had resisted slashing its auction reserve prices as it would not have had any effect on sale clearances.

“Instead, we chose to maintain auction prices and ended the last sales season with higher than anticipated stocks,” Mr Corbett said.

Ian Hartley, BWMB chief executive, said the situation had been repeated across the world. In New Zealand, prices in July fell by 20 per cent to levels 45 per cent below last year’s prices.

But he said there were reasons to be otpimistic. “The Campaign for Wool is capturing the imagination of manufacturers, retailers and consumers across the world and we are extremely grateful to the Prince of Wales for his continued dedication to the CfW.

“The recent CfW launch event in New York was a major success, with sheep taken in to central Manhattan to capture the imagination of the American public. We see the USA as a major market for wool as only two per cent of the floor coverings in America are wool-based.”

Mr Corbett said the board remained confident in the future of the wool market and said that with wool accounting for only 1.5 per cent of the world fibre market there was still massive scope for growth.

Meanwhile, more than 1,100 trainees had taken part in BWMB sheep-shearing courses this year.