Windhoek – The turmoil in the international fur industry has calmed down somewhat, but some problematic features still remain,” chairperson of the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia, Raimar von Hase, said at the annual Swakara Industry Forum on October 18, which discussed industry-related developments and activities.
The forum was attended by 70 Swakara producers and researchers. Von Hase explained that the challenges experienced by Swakara can be attributed to the overhang of unsold and stored mink pelts on the international markets and the state of the Russian economy, which is still depressed due to continued low oil prices and sanctions because of turmoil in Ukraine.
The financial troubles experienced by Russia, the second biggest fur consuming country in the world pose a negative impact to the Swakara buyers from Greece, as they are big fur manufacturing exporters to Russia.
Furthermore, the Chinese economy grows slower and certain measures taken by the Chinese government against tax evasion and corruption, as well as the introduction of a luxury goods tax, have reduced the sales of fur garments in China.
Von Hase’s statement, read on his behalf by Swakara Board member Johannes Motinga indicated that the international fur industry is still troubled. However, von Hase noted that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“There are clearly visible silver linings on the dark clouds, because, mink production has come down from about 90 million to about 40 million pelts per year. The financial position of Greece has stabilised and for the first time in history, a delegation of Chinese fur business people has visited Namibia and in April 2016, we saw a slight rise in Swakara pelt prices. I expect this tendency to continue and prices to improve further in 2017/2018,” he noted.
He also assured those in attendance than fur and fur garments remain highly fashionable on the international catwalks with most of the well-known fashion designers. He concluded by saying, “Swakara remains a designer favourite! The world famous fashion designer Carl Lagerfeld and the famous Italian fashion company FENDI have a short while ago teamed up to produce a stunning fur garment collection to celebrate FENDI’s 90th anniversary.
“It was displayed to the international fashion world in the middle of July in Rome, Italy. Many of the top fashion items were made from Swakara. I regard this as a major fashion breakthrough for Swakara.”
The forum was graced by the presence of senior manager of research at the Agriculture Research Council – Biotechnology Platform in South Africa Dr Farai Muchadeyi. Dr Muchadeyi is investigating population genetic structure and genomic differences between Swakara sub-populations.
His study is entitled ‘Towards identification of causal mutations and development of markers for sub-vitality traits in white pelt production’, a project partly funded by Swakara Producers Fund, through the Swakara Breeders’ Society.
Providing feedback on the study, Dr Muchadeyi said: “The breeding of white Swakara sheep in this region is hampered by the occurrence of sub-vitality effects. This is whereby sheep that are genetically pure for the white colour have a short lifespan and low or no reproduction.” She continued: “The aim is to build genomic resources that would help in the management of sub-vitality career animals and facilitate Marker Assisted Selection in the production of white pelt from Swakara sheep.”
The preliminary results indicate that Swakara sheep have clearly diverged from other Karakul and there is inbreeding evident in the population. The research will continue in an effort to find amicable solutions.
Bernd Rothkegel, a co-opted Swakara Board member discussed the code of practice – standards and rules, while Tobie le Roux, manager of the Swakara Breeders’ Society, gave feedback on training and research.
The forum concluded with nominations of producers representing both communal and commercial farming areas to serve on the Swakara Board for the period 2017 to 2020.
At the gala dinner, the Danie Visser Trust was recognised as the best producer for 2016, while Piet Steenkamp was named the second best producer. The Karasberge Karakoel Stoet Wit scooped the Kopenhagen Fur/Agra Limited Merit Award, which includes a sponsored trip to a Swakara auction in Denmark next year.
The ‘Golden Lamb’ was awarded to Dirk Louw and Retief von Wielligh, respectively. The Golden Lamb is awarded to persons or institutions with outstanding dedication and contributions to the Swakara Industry. The award has been presented annually since 1979. Mr Leon van Wyk, a Swakara producer and a member of the Agra Board of Directors was amongst those who received the ‘Charter award’ from the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia. The Charter award is a way of saying: “Thank you”, to persons who make a remarkable contribution to the industry.