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.