WITH the Swakara pelt industry back on track and the industry booming, more farmers will receive training in the field, especially in the north-western parts of Namibia, newly-elected chairperson of the Swakara Board of Namibia Raimar von Hase has said.
"We the board, will during the next four years grow the industry to the benefit of more farmers on a larger scale and take the industry further to the north-western parts of the country, particularly the Erongo Region," Von Hase said at the introduction of the new board last week.
Swakara is a registered brand name for the Karakul breed of sheep originating in southern Namibia, and is also a trademark.
Swakara pelt farming is a small but thriving industry. The industry is unique - Swakara sheep are renowned for their ability to forage and thrive under extremely harsh living conditions. The Swakara sheep can survive because of a special quality they have such as storing fat in their tails. Von Hase said the industry has survived two decades of declining demand for Swakara pelts, with the number of stud breeders dropping dramatically over the years.
Farmers earned Namibia more than N$32 million in foreign currency at the second Swakara auction in Denmark in 2012. Swakara set new price records at the auction in Kopenhagen, Denmark, with the highest ever average price of N$654,20 per pelt. A total of 118 000 pelts were sold during that auction.
Von Hase said the significant differences between the pelts of other karakul lambs in the world and Namibian lambs have prompted the local industry to rename and re-brand the karakul breed to Swakara last year.
The Swakara brand for karakul pelts has received an internationally recognised status for being a sustainable and natural product, and became part of the "origin assured" (OA) approved list of countries and species of the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF).
Currently, a comprehensive study about the Swakara industry is underway, Von Hase said.About 400 Swakara pelt producers farm with about 170 000 sheep, and the industry employs about 2 000 workers, with about 10 000 people who depend directly on the industry.
Speaking at the same occasion, Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa called on the newly-elected board members to primarily focus on the expansion of the production of Swakara sheep.
"The conditions for expansion are currently ideal by way of the high prices producers earn for their pelts, the government's declaration of a strategic industry and the ministry and the board's very good co-operation of the last three decades," Mutorwa said.
The new Swakara Board of Namibia (SBN) portfolios and board members are: Producers of Pelts and Wool: Raimar von Hase (chairman, Gabriel Biwa (vice chairman), Paulus Apollus, and Slava Motinga, while Leon van Wyk and Pieter Hugo are alternate members. Two more alternate members in this portfolio will be appointed in due course.
representing the Swakara Breeders' Society is Julene Meyer as substantive member and Reinhold Schreiber as an alternate member.
Dagmar Honsbein will serve as substantive member of the marketing side of the SBN, while Peter Kazmaier as an alternate member.