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.