Swakara remains a designer favourite – Swakara Industry Forum

Following the successful Swakara international pelt auction held in the Denmark on 10 September 2016, the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia hosted their annual Swakara Industry Forum on 18 October to discuss industry related developments and activities. The forum was well attended by 70 Swakara producers and researchers.

Raimar von Hase, Chairperson of the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia, in his opening remarks read on his behalf by Johannes Motinga, Swakara Board member, stated that the international fur industry is still troubled. “The turmoil in the international fur industry, has calmed down to a certain extent but some problematic features still remain,” he stated. He explained that the challenges experienced by Swakara can be attributed to the overhang of unsold and stored mink pelts on the international markets, 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.

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 proudly said. 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 Dr Farai Muchadeyi, Senior Manager of Research at the Agriculture Research Council – Biotechnology Platform in South Africa. Dr Muchadeyi is conducting a study on: Investigating population genetic structure and genomic differences between Swakara sub-populations: 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-opt 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 was concluded with nominations of producers representing both communal and commercial farming areas to serve on the Swakara Board, for the period 2017 – 2020.

Later in the evening, the Swakara Board with sponsorship from Agra and Feedmaster hosted the annual gala dinner to award different persons for their outstanding performance and contribution to the industry. The top ten producers, including the best and second best producer were awarded with prizes sponsored by Agra. The Danie Visser Trust was awarded as the best producer for 2016, while Mr Piet Steenkamp was named as the second best producer. The Karasberge Karakoel Stoet Wit scooped the Kopenhagen Fur / Agra Limited Merit Award, which grants a sponsored trip to a Swakara auction in Denmark next year.

The “Golden Lamb” was awarded to Mr Dirk Louw and Mr Retief von Wielligh respectively. The Golden Lamb is awarded to persons or institutions with outstanding dedication and contributions to the Swakara Industry. The award is 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 symbolises a “thank you” to persons who make a remarkable contribution to the industry. Other Charter Award recipients are: H Duvenhage, P Steenkamp, W Knoesen, D Greeff, R Balie, EJ Hinda and J Möller.

On Wednesday morning, 19 October 2016, an elite ram auction took place in Keetmanshoop. Andre and Eureka de Jager of Eureka Swakarastoet paid the highest price of N$ 30,000 for the black Swakara ram of Karsten Boerdery at the auction. And the highest price of N$25 500 paid for a white Swakara ram of Lovedale Farming was also bought by the same buyer.

Swakara performing well despite global economic challenges

Agra sold 100 percent of the Swakara offering on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at the Kopenhagen Fur pelt auction held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The average price of N$ 466.25 is a decrease of 4% on the N$ 485.96 achieved at the April 2016 auction. This is mainly due to a less supportive exchange rate.

The pelt offer consisted of 30 702 black, 9 334 white, 3 137 grey, 631 brown, 2 117 spotted and 505 diverse pelts.

The Top Lot for white Swakara achieved N$ 1 823.81 (DKK 840) for a lot of 50 KF Selected Extra pelts, purchased by Etherion Furs from Kastoria, Greece. The highest price for black pelts was N$ 1 780.38 (DKK 820), for a lot of 68 O Light Selected Extra pelts, paid by Katharina Hasse from Russia.

The pelt offer was bought by 27 buyers with other prospective buyers bidding, but not being successful. The biggest buyer of Swakara was the company Morisco from Denmark which purchased 13 203 pelts. Buyers of Denmark bought the most pelts followed by buyers from Greece, with the agents from England in third place. More Chinese customers were visible at the inspection and auction, and 2 110 pelts for China were bought through agents.

Mr Arnold Klein, Agra’s CEO, who attended the auction noted that Swakara remains a high end luxury product. “As evident from the auction house, white pelts were still in demand but at lower prices for the top pelts. However, the prices of black and spotted pelts increased slightly,” he explained. On the auction results, Mr Klein said: “Swakara performed well, considering that the overall fur market situation is still very difficult due to the global economic challenges experienced by Russia, Greece and China.”

The top Namibian producer with more than 250 pelts at this auction was Karasberge Karakoel Stoet Wit, who achieved an average price of N$ 856.04 for 304 pelts.

The top South African producer was LJ Kotze from Groblershoop who sold 574 pelts at an average of price of R 606.74.

Swakara changing lives of Namibians says von Hase

The Swakara Board of Namibia hosted a successful information day on Friday, 5 August 2016 at ‘The House of Swakara’ in Windhoek. The Swakara Board used the opportunity to share its core functions as well as to explain Agra’s role as the sole marketing agent of the sought-after Swakara pelts. The Open Day was graced by the presence of Hon. Maureen Hinda, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

Opening the event, Raimar von Hase, Chairperson of the Swakara Board of Namibia gave a background to Swakara farming in Namibia which started more than 100 years ago. The first Karakul sheep, whose origins can be traced back to Buchara in the vast steppes in Uzbekistan, were imported via Germany into the then ‘Deutsch-Südwestafrika’ (now Namibia) in 1907. The arid semi desert conditions prevailing in southern and western Namibia proved to be an environment where the sheep thrived without having any negative impact on the very fragile ecosystem, and delivered a high value agricultural product.” He explained that Swakara slowly developed into a meaningful economic force and thereby improved the living standards of many Namibians. “From humble beginnings, production took off in the mid 1930’s and by 1934 already close to 355,000 Swakara pelts were exported. By 1943, the amount totalled 2,2 million pelts and culminated in a record amount of 5,5 million pelts sold during auctions in 1972. However, the industry came to a near standstill in the late 1980’s because of fashion changes, overproduction and the anti-fur activities of the animal rights movement. In 2015, just over 120,000 Swakara pelts were marketed at Kopenhagen Fur (KF) in Denmark.”

Mr von Hase continued by saying that Swakara farming has made significant contributions to the wellbeing of Namibians, especially in the arid southern parts of the country. His sentiments were echoed by Paulus Apollus, Swakara Producer and Board Member, who said that Swakara has created many employment opportunities and contributes meaningfully to the rural economy. Apollus urged new and upcoming farmers to join the industry and produce more pelts to sell on the international markets. There were plenty opportunities for more pelts to be marketed.

Bernd Rothkegel, co-opted Swakara board member gave a summary on the ‘Swakara Wool Initiative’ which is carried out in partnership with Government through the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development. He noted that wool is a by-product of Swakara sheep which is used to make carpets and other products. “Namibia currently produces about 360 tonnes of wool annually, of which only 50 tonnes are currently used locally. Thus, we can confidently say that there is an untapped market for Namibian wool and plenty of scope for local value addition,” he proudly said.

Jaco van Zyl from Agra explained the Swakara value chain under the theme; “From Desert till the hammer falls.” He said that farmers deliver their pelts throughout the year to ‘The House of Swakara’ where pelts are sorted, graded and shipped to the auction house in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Swakara pelts are auctioned bi-annually at the April and September Kopenhagen Fur auction house in Denmark where bidders from all over the world compete for the pelts. The farmer retains ownership of the pelts until the hammer drops, and is paid out by Agra within seven days after the auction.

At the same event, the Swakara Board presented framed Swakara garment posters to stakeholders who play a significant role in and support to the Swakara industry. The recipients were: The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation; Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry; Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development and Agra Ltd., the marketing agent of Swakara pelts.

The information day was concluded with a presentation made by the expert pelt sorters, on how the pelts are sorted and prepared for the international markets. The next Swakara pelt auction will take place on 10 September 2016 in Denmark.

China fur businesses falls in love with Swakara

A group of 13 business leaders from the Chinese fur industry who recently graduated from the Tsinghua University in Beijing’s E-MBA programme visited Namibia last week as part of their graduation programme. The group consisted of officials from Kopenhagen Fur and executives who are managers and owners of different fur businesses in China. They visited the country to familiarise themselves with our own Swakara pelts and Swakara fur operations in Namibia as well as to enjoy Namibia’s prime tourism destinations.

The Swakara Board of Namibia in collaboration with Kopenhagen Fur’s Beijing office hosted the delegation to different activities during their time in Namibia.

On Wednesday, 14 June 2016, the Swakara Board organised a trip for the group to a Swakara stud farm, 180 km from Windhoek. Mr Raimar von Hase, Chairperson of the Swakara Board gave some background on Swakara farming in Namibia. “Swakara/Karakul farming started in Namibia more than 100 years ago. The first twelve karakul sheep (ten ewes and two rams) arrived in Swakopmund on 24 September 1907, and were sent to Windhoek that very same day. The arrival of the Karakul sheep gave rise to a new enterprise in agriculture, namely karakul/swakara farming.” During their trip on the farm, the group were exposed to the Swakara farming processes, from practical animal husbandry to the preparation of pelts for the international auctions.

In relation to the delegation’s visit, von Hase noted that the Swakara Board has identified Chinese high fashion as one of the ideal and strategic markets for Swakara. “Last year, the Swakara Board in cooperation with the Beijing office of Kopenhagen Fur conducted a survey to explore the possibilities of marketing Swakara in China. The survey results provided better understanding of the market, and thus enables the Board to develop and run campaigns that will target designers, manufactures and high fashion fur lovers in China,” he explained.

Ms Chris Cui, President of Kopenhagen Fur in China, was full of praise after the tour to the farm. She said, “After months of endeavours, the trip to Namibia became a reality. I am very excited and certain that members of the group have learnt a lot.” Cui was instrumental is assembling the group for their visit to Namibia. The group is comprised of various stakeholders from China at different levels of the value chain in the fur business; ranging from brokers and designers to furriers, manufacturers, and retailers.

Mr Kasper Reinbacher, Kopenhagen Fur’s Marketing Director, noted that Kopenhagen Fur and Tsinghua University jointly developed the E-MBA programme, an executive education programme tailor-made for the fur industry. “The one year E-MBA programme which is in its 6th year brought together stakeholders in the different parts of the value chain closer to learn, interact and share best practises in the fur industry.” The group visiting Namibia recently graduated from this programme. He concluded by saying, “The programme exposed the participants to management and business related topics, macroeconomics, finance and fur related knowledge. The overall objective is to boost skills in the fur industry and ensure sustainability in the future.”

Later in the evening, the Board hosted a cocktail reception at a local restaurant attended by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Maureen Hinda; Chairperson of the Swakara Board, Mr Raimar von Hase; stakeholders in the Swakara industry and the Chinese delegation. “This is history in the making,” Mr von Hase said as he opened the event. “For the first time, the Swakara Board is hosting a delegation from China who are eager to learn about Swakara farming in Namibia. We are indeed honoured and hope that our visitors will fall in love with this uniquely Namibian product and indeed the country itself.”

Background:

The Swakara/Karakul Board of Namibia is a state-owned enterprise which governs the Swakara Industry in Namibia by act of parliament. Agra, by agreement with the Board, is the sole sorting and marketing agent of Swakara pelts. Kopenhagen Fur is the largest fur auction house in the world where Swakara pelts are sold on auction bi-annually. In collaboration with Kopenhagen Fur, Denmark, the Swakara Board of Namibia promotes and sells Swakara pelts to the worldwide fur industry. China is currently the biggest end user market for furs in the world.

All swakara pelts sold at the international pelt auction

Agra faciliated the sale of the total swakara pelt offering at the April Kopenhagen Fur pelt auction held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The average sales price of N$ 485.96 represents an increase of 13% on the N$ 428.58 achieved at the September 2015 auction. The pelt offer consisted of 39 416 black, 13 413 white, 2 732 spotted and 577 diverse pelts.

The Top Lot for white Swakara achieved N$2 117.47 (DKK 960) for a lot of 58 KF Selected Extra pelts, purchased by Vtoroy Mechovoy from Russia. The highest price for black pelts was N$1 367.53 (DKK 620) , for a lot of 82 O Light Selected Extra pelts, paid by FENDI.

Mr Paolo Borello representing Vtoroy Mechovoy, the buyer of the beautiful white Swakara Top Lot was very happy with the sought after pelts from Namibia. He plans to use the pelts for his new collection next season. “The colour and the character of the pelts is very light and unique. It is a very exclusive Top Lot, and it is very seldom that we see such beautiful white Swakara pelts,” he said.

The top Namibian producer with more than 250 pelts at this auction was ‘Karasberge Karakoel Stoet Wit,’ achieving an average price of N$1017.63 for 280 pelts sold at the auction. The top South African producer was WA Knoesen, who achieved an average price of N$807.88 for 390 pelts.

The pelt offer was bought by 27 buyers, with other prospective buyers bidding but not being successful. The biggest single buyer of Swakara was the company Manakas from Greece who purchased 11 938 pelts. The most pelts were bought by Italian buyers, followed by buyers from Greece, with the buyers from England taking third place.

Good quality pelts were in demand and achieved higher prices at the auction. White pelts were in high demand, and achieved very good prices. The average price for white pelts increased by 30%, compared to the prices achieved in September 2015 and the price of black pelts remained the same.

Mr Arnold Klein, CEO of Agra, who attended the auction described this auction as very successful for Swakara, considering that the overall fur market situation is still very difficult due to the global economic challenges currently experienced by Russia, Greece and China.

Swakara making positive inroads in the fur industry

On 15 March 2016, Agra’s Pelt Centre dispatched a consignment of 56,138 pelts destined to Copenhagen, Denmark for the international pelt auction on the 15th of April 2016. The pelts with an estimated value of N$24 million will go under the hammer at the Kopenhagen Fur international pelt auction. Representatives from Agra, the Swakara Board and the winner of the 2015 Agra/Kopenhagen Fur Quality Award will attend this auction.

Swakara pelts, known as Namibia’s Black Diamonds, continue to attract international fur lovers with its silky, elegant and appealing look. “Despite the 12% drop in attendance, compared to last year, swakara attracted many fur lovers, especially the Chinese and Koreans,” these were the remarks made by Jaco van Zyl, Agra’s Swakara Specialist, who represented the sought-after fur at the Hong Kong International Fashion and Fur Fair from 25 to 28 February 2016. He was accompanied by a Swakara Board member, Paulus Apollus.

Fur goes under the banner of “to see and be seen.” The Hong Kong International Fashion and Fur Fair is renowned as the largest and most important fur trade event in the world. “Swakara had a good exhibition at the fair, with its stunning booth drawing visitors to introduce them to the perfect fur for high-end fashion. Various buyers and manufacturers visited our booth and their general opinion was that swakara is still high in demand, and holds a promise for the future,” said Apollus.

Swakara was also prominently displayed at the Hong Kong gala evening and fashion show. About 140 garments were presented by models on the catwalk, of which 30 garments had swakara intergrated as part of their design. Mr van Zyl said: “The highlight of the event was seeing the Director of Ceremonies wearing a long grey swakara coat.”

Swakara pelts are sold exclusively at Kopenhagen Fur’s April and September auctions. Agra facilitated two international pelt auctions last year (2015). The auctions brought together a total of 115,918 pelts under the hammer at Kopenhagen Fur in Denmark. At the April 2015 auction, a total of 60 910 Swakara pelts were offered, of which 56 693 were sold at an average price of N$461.23 (DKK 266.72), representing a 93% sale of the total offer. At the September 2015 auction, all 59,225 pelts on offer were sold. It achieved an average price of N$428.58 which is a decrease of 7.08% on the N$461.23 achieved at the April 2015 auction.

Swakara is a high quality eco-fur, highly regarded as a long-term investment in terms of style and durability. Swakara is a robust sheep breed, able to thrive despite the dry desert conditions in the southern parts of Namibia. In some parts of the country the conditions are so harsh that no other livestock or crop can be cultivated. In that sense swakara is the golden story of Namibia engaging large parts of the rural communities, providing both employment and food.

Swakara promises a bright future

The Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia’s Swakara Industry Forum (SIF) hosted its 3rd Annual General Meeting on 20 October 2015 to discuss industry related developments and activities. This follows the successful international auction where all the pelts were sold on 25 September 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The event was well attended by about 50 Swakara producers and international guests from Kopenhagen Fur, International Fur design, and the International Fur Federation (IFF). Amongst the items topping the agenda was the “International Fur Market,” with farmers eager to hear whether it is still viable to farm with Swakara.

Raimar von Hase, Swakara Board Chairperson, opened the meeting informing those attending that the current situation in the international fur trade is still troubled. The challenges facing the industry are factors that Swakara producers do not have influence over. “The factors have nothing to do with Swakara’s popularity, but more with the overseas market situation where the pelts are sold. At the moment, the situation is entirely out of the Swakara Board’s hands,” Mr von Hase explained. He also noted that the economic situation in Russia, the second biggest fur consuming country in the world, remains serious, with the Ukrainian political unrest, the decline in fossil fuel prices, and a sharply declined exchange rate for the Russian Rouble. This in turn has a negative financial impact on Swakara buyers from Greece, as they are big fur manufacturing exporters to Russia. Another negative factor is the overproduction of mink in the world.

Reflecting on the recent Swakara auction, Mr von Hase said that the industry should be proud and happy because Swakara sold all pelts despite uncertainties and prices decreased with only 7% in Namibia Dollars. He continued by saying that Swakara has a bright future ahead due to its strategic advantages. “Swakara is fashionable and a trend setter with a reliable group of fur manufacturing companies supporting the fur year after year. Furthermore, the versatility of the Swakara fur is unique, it is not mass produced and locally, Swakara sheep are tolerant of Namibia’s harsh dry farming conditions,” Mr von Hase noted, alluding to the uniqueness of the Swakara breed and its fur.

Mark Boyle from the International Fur Federation (IFF) gave a presentation on the global acceptance of fur vs. anti-fur groups which he described as a vicious opposition. He started with a brief history on fur and animal welfare. “There are so many untrue stories spread about fur which are non-representative. The fur industry operates under strict codes of practice, to ensure that animals do not suffer. Therefore, animal welfare is our top priority,” Mr Boyle stated, while giving reference to efforts invested to protect and safe guard the industry. In his concluding remarks, he shared the activities of IFF and the Global sector to strengthen the industry. The IFF is part of the ‘WelFur’ scheme driven by Fur Europe, aimed at protecting animals on the farm and highlighting the high degree of fashion use of furs worldwide.

Dr Annemie Lourens, State Veterinarian for Karas region gave a brief talk on Brucella Ovis, a venereal disease, found in all breeds of sheep. This was followed by Tobie Le Roux, Manager of the Swakara Breeder’s Association, who provided feedback on training and research. He reported that during the last year, 8 courses with 147 participants were held to impart knowledge and build capacity in the industry.

Later in the evening, the annual gala dinner was hosted to award different persons for their outstanding performance and contribution to the industry. The top ten producers, including the best and second best producer were awarded with prizes sponsored by Agra. The Rossouw Strauss Trust was awarded as the best producer of 2015, walking away with N$5 000. The second best producer award with a prize of N$3 000 was awarded to Mr Piet Steenkamp. Salmi Shilongo was the winner of the 2015 Swakara Young Designers competition award, which includes a week-long trip to Copenhagen to witness the Swakara pelt auction in April 2016, and an opportunity to practise her fur design and manufacturing skills at the Kopenhagen International Centre for Creativity (KICK). Mr PHK Maritz scooped the Kopenhagen Fur and Agra Limited Quality Award. He walked away with a sponsored trip for him and his wife to the next Swakara auction in Kopenhagen on 15 April 2016.

The “Golden Lamb” was awarded by the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia to Nakara CC and farmer Mr. Daniel Motinga respectively. The Golden Lamb is awarded to institutions and/or persons with outstanding dedication and contributions to the Swakara industry. The award has been presented annually since 1979. Messrs. Jaco van Zyl and Adolf Awaseb of the Agra Pelt Centre were amongst those who walked away with Charter awards by the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia. The Charter symbolises a “thank you” to persons who make a remarkable contribution to the industry.

Swakara4_Swakara Industry Forum AGM Swakara2_Raimar von Hase, Salmi Shilongo, Mark Boyle & Wessel Visser_2 Swakara3_Hon. Esme Sophia Isaack, Governor of Hardap Region shaking hands with Raimar von Hase, Chairperson of the Swakara Board

A 100% of swakara pelts sold at international auction

Agra facilitated the sale of the total swakara pelt offering at the September pelt auction in Denmark. The average sales price of N$ 428.58 is a decrease of 7.08% on the N$ 461.23 achieved at the April 2015 auction. The pelt offer consisted of 39 821 black,  11 545 white, 3 400 grey, 644 brown, 2 525 spotted and 1 290 diverse pelts.

The Top Lot for white swakara achieved N$1 489.25 (DKK 720) for a lot of 42 KF Selected Extra pelts, purchased by Victor Konstantinopolskiy from ACCESSORY Fur, in Moscow, Russia. The highest price for black pelts was N$ 1820.19 (DKK 880), for a lot of 52 O Light Selected Extra pelts, bought by Michail Konstantinou from Konstatinou Furs in Kastoria, Greece.

There was a high demand of good quality white pelts with their prices maintaining a rather stable price level. Grey and brown pelts which are only offered at September auctions, sold at a higher average prices than the black pelts.

The top Namibian producer (with more than 250 pelts) at this auction was Karasberge Karakoelstoet from Karasburg who sold 332 pelts at an average price of N$ 781.69. The top South African producer was Koos Kotze from Grobblershoop who achieved an average price of R 599.56 for 581 pelts.

The pelts on offer were bought by 22 buyers with other prospective buyers bidding, but not being successful. The biggest buyer of swakara was the company Morisco from Denmark who purchased 14 640 pelts. Morisco, owned by Thomas Rebuild, also facilitated the purchase of the white top lot, at both auctions of 2015 respectively. Agents from Denmark bought the most pelts followed by buyers from Greece, with agents from England taking third place. Italy bought 10 214 pelts. Bidding for the pelts commenced in an unusually tense manner. However, after the new price level was established, bidding was more spontaneous and buyers showed good interest at the lower prices.

The white swakara Top Lot buyer, Victor Konstantinopolskiy, is a fur expert who has created a brand new technique that adds a metallic look to the luxurious fur. Mr Konstantinopolskiy ennobles Swakara fur in Moscow, and delivers these goods exclusively to FENDI, a leading global fashion brand. According to Mr Konstantinopolskiy, the Swakara fur is very popular especially amongst Russian designers and he hopes that his white Top Lot swakara with a metallic finishing will be a success.

It is the sixth consecutive time that Mr Konstantinou bought the black swakara Top Lot. With this lot, he plans to attend fur fairs in Hong Kong, Chicago and Kastoria. He said he loves swakara, because he can use the material in many different ways. “I can make coats, sneakers, bags, dresses, pretty much everything with swakara fur. Furthermore, I can use many different techniques when I work with swakara, so it is a very versatile material. I think it is the most elegant material for garments on the market,” he explained. In recognising Konstantinou Furs dedication towards Namibia’s black diamonds, Mr Konstantinou was requested to manufacture garments for the official 2016 swakara collection.

The overall fur market situation is very difficult because of the global economic challenges currently experienced by Russia, Greece and China. Mink and fox pelt prices dropped by approximately 40% at both Kopenhagen Fur and SAGA Furs auctions. Although lower prices were realised for swakara at this auction, Namibian producers under the current severe drought situation, are extremely relieved with the total sale and the favourable DKK:NAD exchange rate that strengthened the auction results.

Namibian farmers will receive first hand feedback from the auction and fur market place at the Swakara Industry Forum on 20 October 2015 in Keetmanshoop.

Swakara engages in market diversification

September 2015 sees another consignment of highly sought after Swakara pelts being auctioned off at the international Kopenhagen Fur auction. Agra’s Pelt Centre shipped a total of 55 042 Swakara pelts at the beginning of September to Denmark. In total there are 59 259 pelts on offer, including 4217 unsold pelts from the April auction.  The pelts will be auctioned on the 25th of September 2015, at Kopenhagen Fur, Denmark. A delegation of representatives from Agra and the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia will attend this auction.

As part of promoting Namibia’s black diamonds, Swakara pelts, the Swakara (Karakul) Board of Namibia in cooperation with the Beijing branch of Kopenhagen Fur, are in the process conducting a survey, to explore the possibility of investigating the Chinese market for Swakara. This survey will provide better understanding of the market, supporting the board to develop and run marketing campaigns. The campaigns will target designers, manufactures and customers to gauge for the potential market of Swakara pelts in China.

Raimar von Hase, the Chairperson of the Swakara (Karakul) Board said that it’s always challenging to make a prediction with auctions especially under the current international market uncertainties. He is hopeful that it would be a resounding success. “We are confident that the auction will go well. Swakara was prominently visible at the 50 year anniversary fashion show of Karl Lagerfeld, alongside other powerful brands like Gucci and Prada. Hence, our proudly Namibian product is gaining international interest from fur lovers,” he explained. He continued by saying, “With the Greek financial situation now being stable, we expect Greek buyers back at the auction.”  Wessel Visser, Agra ProVision’s Manager for Social Business and Services and Manager of the Pelt Centre shared Mr von Hase’s sentiments. “Following on from the recent developments in the fur industry, some buyers are now returning to the auction house with the exchange rate in favour of the Namibian farmers, it is expected to be a very successful auction for Namibia” he said confidently.

Earlier this year, 93 percent of the Swakara’s total offering was sold at the April pelt auction in Denmark. Of the total offer of 60 910 Swakara pelts, 56 693 were sold at this auction on 18 April 2015.  The average price of N$ 461.74 (DKK 266.72) represents a decrease of 17.76% in Namibian Dollar terms (in Danish Krone (DKK), a decrease of 9.7%) on the N$ 561.47 (DKK 295.35) achieved at the September 2014 auction. The pelts sold consisted of 42 350 black,  10 406 white, 2 648 spotted  and 1 289 diverse pelts.

Fur lover chooses Namibia and Swakara to celebrate birthday

Two representatives from the S.Ribak International Fur Broker, Klaus-Dieter Ribak and his wife Susanna Ribak visited Agra’s Pelt Centre and various Swakara farmers recently. They took the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Swakara farming in Namibia. The couple came at the right time, as they were also able to celebrate the 75th birthday of Mr Ribak, while in the country.

Klaus-Dieter Ribak who hails from Germany first encountered Swakara in London, 1962. Since then, he remained loyal to Swakara. The love for the swakara was influenced by his mother’s love for swakara. She was in the fur business in the late 50s. He never looked back, he bought swakara at each and every auction. “Swakara is a special fashion product in the fur business. Unlike other products, swakara is a flat and stylish fur type with infinite possibilities to work with,” he explains with pride.

In the late 60s, Ribak opened his own fur business that focussed on buying fur, and making fashion items. During his visit to the Pelt Centre, he showed his enormous expertise by preparing and matching pelts for designing. In the late 90s, he retired from the business and advised his wife Susanna to open a Fur Broker Business, using their combined experience and expertise to buy on behalf of their clients. In early 2000, the S. Ribak International Fur Brokers saw the light of the day.

Susanna is the only female broker in the male-dominated fur business world-wide, competing at auctions with men to get the finest furs for her customers. By coincidence, she was raised in Bukhara, where the first Karakul Sheep imported to Namibia came from 108 years ago. Susanna is a former top model of Russia. In 2012, she bought the white swakara skin top lot at a record breaking price of N$ 2,325.48 (1700 DKK), which is the highest price paid ever for a swakara skin at the time. The top lot was bought for a Mosco -based company, Guligaz, to show their partners that they will always get the best. The sale was also prompted by the increased demand of swakara fur in Russia.

Speaking about the future of fur, the Ribaks hinted that the current geographical unrests between Russia and Ukraine affects the business, because Russia has been the main buyer of fur. Anti-fur organisations also pose a threat to the business. But on the positive side, Mr Ribak is optimistic that fur will continue to prosper, if there is proper succession planning. “Just like other businesses, the fur trade is sustainable. But for this business to flourish in the future, we need to teach the young and upcoming furriers on how to work with fur. In Namibia swakara is really keeping the fur trade alive. It is one of the many reasons why I love swakara and why my wife and I am so grateful to this wonderful country. A perfect place to spend my 75th birthday,” he concluded.