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Depending on China, while hurt by China — Utah wool company waits for markets to reopen for cash to start flowing

Posted at 9:43 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 23:43:38-04

For the first time in 25 years, a Utah wool company said the markets in China have completely shut down, threatening to shut down their company in Tooele.

From baseball bats, to suits and military uniforms, the bails of wool in the warehouse Will Griggs manages is his livelihood.

“I would say, right now, you’re looking at a representative amount of around 2 million lbs of wool,” said Griggs.

Brought to Tooele, the wool is weight and then cored — meaning a sample is collected, then shipped to a lab in New Zealand.

“Scientific results that tell us what the fiber diameter is, the yield, which is how much dirt and grease in it, and how much vegetable matter,” said Griggs.

50 percent of buyers are domestic, but Griggs said the other 50% come from around the world. This is the first time the markets in China have completely shut down.

“By not selling wool, we don’t have cash flow,” said Griggs.

There is a real potential the Utah Wool Markets Association could go out of business.

“Being here 25 years like I have, that’s the end of my life as I know it as far as my job, my career,” said Griggs.

So far around $80,000 have been lost just from the handling fees Griggs would have received from his buyers.

Griggs said they had record numbers of sales before the Trump Tariffs last year. The fires in Australia killed millions of sheep, causing market prices to dip this year.

The peak season for shearing and selling wool is April and May.

“We had anticipated this was going to be a good year,” said Griggs.

Griggs continues to collect bails at the warehouse, as wool can store for years.

It’s not the wool storage, though, that worries Griggs the most — it’s the plummeting prices of wool that will happen when the market opens up again.

“It is an odd feeling to be reliant on a country that’s allowed so much despair in the world,” said Griggs. “But you sell it where you can.”