British Wool Marketing Board
The British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB [also known as British Wool]) operates the central marketing system for UK fleece wool. A farmer-run organisation, British Wool was established in 1950 with the aim of achieving the best possible net return for producers. It is the only organisation in the world that collects, grades, sells and promotes fleece wool and is the only remaining agricultural commodity board in the UK. Receiving no financial support, although operating commercially, British Wool is a non-profit-making organisation, returning to producers the market price for their wool, with its own costs deducted.
Under the Wool Marketing Act 1950, British Wool is required to register all producers with four or more sheep with the exception of producers in Shetland, which has its own arrangement by selling through a cooperative. This system was developed after the Second World War, when farmers were trying to sell their wool on an open market. The system was described as being "chaotic and discriminatory". According to British Wool, there were between 40,000 and 46,000 registered producers in 2015. The number of producers has been falling; in 1995 it was 91,000, by 2012 it was 75,000. This has also been in line with the number of sheep available; in 1990 there were 65 million sheep for wool farming, by 2012 this had fallen to 40 million.
Certain rare breeds of sheep are exempt from the BWMB system (British Merino, castle milk, Lincoln Longwool etc), but farmers may also apply to keep 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) for artisan purposes. Additionally, up to 15,000 kilograms (33,000 lb) may be exempt for non-textile uses such as building insulation.
The board of nine elected producer members, representing nine different areas of the UK, and two Government appointees, meet eight times a year and report back to nine regionally elected committees.
Day-to-day operations are run from British Wool's headquarters in Bradford, West Yorkshire with smaller offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wool fleeces are graded at one of the eleven grading centres that the BWMB operate, and then they are sent to auctions which are held up 18 times per year.
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