IN A bid to remain viable, the mohair industry has presented the government with several pilot projects which it believes will bolster employment in the Eastern Cape while creating more black mohair farmers.
Addressing delegates at the second International Mohair Summit, held in the Karoo farming town of Jansenville, Mohair South Africa general manager Deon Saayman said yesterday: "The economic prospects of Africa depend on sustainable projects in the agricultural industry."
The pilot projects which the industry has presented to the government include:
- A plan to increase Angora goat meat sales. The meat is known to be lean and healthy, but also tough, as it comes from Angora goats from which mohair is no longer harvested. Saayman said bulk Angora meat priced under R50 a kilogram "flew off the shelves" during a marketing project in Jansenville and Graaff-Reinet;
- A plan to open a tannery, possibly in the small town of Klipplaat, where the goat skins would be treated and sold;
- Research into using as much of the Angora skin as possible for various products, such as making slippers: and
- Growing the Angora craft industry, including training residents in the region to wash and dye mohair and craft it into high-end products. Saayman said talks were under way with Chinese partners to take crafters from the region to China for training.
The aim of the R8-million summit, sponsored mostly by the government, is to grow investment in an industry that last year produced 2.3 million kilograms of mohair – about half of global production – in the process injecting about R800-million into the economy from sales.
Mohair production in South Africa has plummeted from highs of 12 million kilograms in 1988, although for the first time that trend was reversed last year. At the same time, industry heads argue, the product has been refined into a high-end and niche market fibre.
"In real terms the value of mohair has risen," Saayman said in an interview.
Farmers received an average price of R123 a kilogram this year, while the top price fetched at a sale earlier in the year was R600 a kilogram for ultra-fine kid mohair.
Delegates yesterday also heard from Nedbank senior economist Nicky Weimar.
Weimar said the industry would need to wait until the second half of 2014 for any uptick in exports. That, she said, was when the US economy was expected to start showing more robust growth.
Speaking on initiatives to bolster the industry, Weimar said: "We need to look at creating more possible industries downstream, such as [more] tourism or even micro-industries.
"It's not about doing anything spectacular, but putting the basics in place. Government needs to make sure that services are available to the people by putting in the right infrastructure and fixing the education system."