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.