The production and sale of wool is regulated by British Wool (formerly the British Wool Marketing Board). Most UK sheep owners (except in Shetland) are required to register with British Wool before they can market and sell their fleece wool. This includes products that are wholly or partly manufactured or derived from wool.
The British Wool Marketing Board was a public non-financial corporation set up under the British Wool Marketing Board Scheme (Approval) Order 1950 and the British Wool Marketing Board Scheme (Amendment) Order 2000. Registration can be done through the British Wool website and is a straightforward process.
What restrictions are imposed?
Wool producers registered with British Wool are only permitted to sell their wool through an agency of British Wool, or to British Wool itself. Wool producers registered with British Wool must also comply with any directions given by British Wool as to those to whom any wool for sale is to be delivered, and the places to which it can be delivered.
British Wool also has power to impose requirements on registered producers relating to the manner in which wool is to be adapted for sale, marked, packed, transported, stored, insured; and how long it must be delivered after it has been produced.
Are there any exemptions from registration?
Owners of fewer than four adult sheep (four months or older) are exempt from the registration requirements. Fellmongers who produce wool only in the course of their business as a fellmonger are also exempt.
What obligations does British Wool have?
British Wool must accept and sell all wool tendered by producers who are registered with it. It is also required to value wool as soon as practicable after the wool has been tendered to it. When valuing wool, British Wool is required to do this with reference to a schedule of maximum prices. This schedule must be published annually for different classes of wool.
Once a price has been set, British Wool must pay the producer according to the valuation. However, if a producer disagrees with the valuation given, an appeal can be made to British Wool’s tribunal. Notice of any such challenge must be given within 10 days after receipt of notification of the valuation, otherwise the valuation is conclusive.
Note that British Wool has the discretion to make additional payments to producers for wool tendered during the year (with any money owed to it by the producer deducted from it).
Are there any penalties?
If a producer fails to register with British Wool (and no exemption applies), but nevertheless sells their wool, a criminal offence may have been committed.
If a registered producer contravenes the requirements of British Wool, they can be disciplined by the disciplinary committee. This committee has the power to impose a penalty in the case of a contravention of up to £100 plus half the price of any wool sold during the course of the contravention. For other offences, the maximum penalty is £100.
However, the disciplinary committee cannot impose a penalty if the contravention amount to a criminal offence under the Agricultural Marketing Act 1958, or under other legislation.