By Wezi Tjaronda
Namibia will have to increase its Karakul production to expand its markets especially now that Karakul production has declined in some countries.
Already, production and the quality of Karakul pelts in countries such as Russia and Central Asia are rapidly declining.
In addition, Hong Kong, which targets the US and Far East markets, as well as Europe could be considered as new markets, to which the Karakul Board of Namibia could promote Swakara, the Namibian trademark for Karakul pelts.
This year, the board made several promotions in Moscow, Milan, Hong Kong and Frankfurt, where it exhibited Swakara.
Reports compiled by participants at international fur fairs and presented to the Karakul Producers Forum meeting on Friday said several requests were received to promote Swakara in the US and Canada.
“According to visitors from there, the market is enormous and it’s definitely now the time for the board to move with effective promotion,” said a report compiled after the Hong Kong Fur Fair.
Another report after the Moscow Fur Fair said the Russian market holds potential that could be easily tapped because it is used to trading in Karakul.
“Furriers like to craft Karakul pelts and the skill and capacity is still available. Swakara can just step in and fill the gap provided that local production increases,” said the report.
There are also fears that limited access to skins could result in the Russian fur industry losing the skill to craft Karakul garments.
Furriers that spoke to the participants at the fairs said there was a shortage of Karakul skins and that they had problems obtaining the number of pelts required for their manufacture. They said it was also difficult to purchase their supply from other suppliers because of high costs, the report said.
In central Asia, the report said, Karakul herds are rapidly declining and most farmers have herds as small as 20 to 30 Karakul sheep, which makes it difficult to implement selection and breeding programmes.
Further, due to the low number of pelts, skin dealers have to drive long distances to collect pelts.
The report recommended that the board should exploit the Russian market and give it high priority.
“The Russian market is in urgent need of Karakul pelts. The Karakul board should consider enhancing the sale of Swakara,” said the report.
Chairman of the Karakul Board of Namibia, Kobus van Wyk said China and Russia, the best traders in Karakul, did not show signs of economic growth besides their low sales and low prices as opposed to Swakara, which showed good signs in the fashion world.
Van Wyk said the rise in the world economy caused a rise in demand in luxury items. The year 2006 saw a huge demand for Karakul pelts especially after the 2004 and 2005 cold winters.
China, Russia and Korea have for the past three years been the driving force behind high prices.
Prices have been rising since June 2004 to September 2007. The highlight for Namibia’s “Black Diamond” was in April, when the highest price of N$1???_?_’???_?’???_???