In spite of the marketing and other activities initiated by the primary mohair industry in South Africa, the production of mohair has dropped to one of the lowest levels ever.
There are short-term reasons for this that could turn around fairly quickly, such as the drought that has affected much of the production area for the past few years, and which appears to have been broken at last. The quantity of mohair shorn per goat and the length of the clip has been negatively affected by the drought, but breeding has also played a role, with the focus having been on fineness and quality. The Angora Ram Breeders are aware of this, and the introduction of a length index for rams sold on the veld sales was a positive step.
The impact of Rift Valley Fever has not been seriously felt, as the outbreak generally occurred north of the traditional mohair production area. It has, however, caused serious losses among sheep and cattle, and Angora goat farmers will have to be extra vigilant after the recent good rains. The major effect of RVF was at the point of sale, where the absence of one buyer exporting greasy mohair to China caused downward pressure on particularly the adult market. This was difficult to understand, since the virus cannot survive outside of a live animal.
The Mohair Trust and Mohair Pools were forced to step in and appreciably increase the floor price of adult hair. This resulted in a turnaround in the market. They must be commended for this courageous action, which emphasised again the critical importance of having a strong support fund.
The long-term solution to the low production levels lies in demand and price. There were obviously good reasons why 30 million kg of mohair (USA 15 million kg, Turkey 8 million kg and South Africa 6 million kg) could be absorbed into the market in 1965. A serious drop in price caused production to reach a low of 13, 2 million kg in 1975 (USA, Turkey and SA all just under 4 million kg). The price then increased from around R2, 50/kg to over R10/kg by 1979, and this, coupled with pressure on other farming options, triggered a major increase in production. World production peaked at 26 million kg in 1988 (SA 12 million kg, USA 8 million kg and Turkey 3 million kg), after the rand price had peaked in 1985. The decrease in production after 1988 was at first dramatic, but then slowed to a steady decline.
Production and the price of Angora goats have not responded to mohair price increases in recent years. Either they have been too small, or there are other factors playing a role. The ignorance about mohair at the manufacturing and consumer levels is one of the factors being targeted by the MSA marketing team, while the vast virtually untapped emerging markets could trigger the next boom.
Ignorance about Angora goat farming is another factor at production level that is being addressed. It is pleasing to see the first emerging farmer graduates from Hardwood moving to Uitkomst to start their own business. The promotional efforts from the SAMGA office have been hampered by staff changes, but will hopefully begin to function fully in the near future.
It is of concern that velour manufacturers are encountering kemp and black fibres in their final products. The Angora Ram Breeders have strict selection criteria and breed standards that show clearly that they disapprove of such fibres. It is therefore difficult to believe that this problem comes from South African mohair. It does happen that mohair from different parts of the world is blended, which points to a need for some form of certification in respect of the origin of mohair to protect the good name of the South African clip. Commercial Angora farmers should also be encouraged to use approved breeding rams in their flocks.
With production at dangerously low levels, we cannot afford to lose anyone from the market, from producers through to retailers. It is important for producers to do everything in their power to increase production, while maintaining strict quality standards. The onus is on processors and manufacturers to blend responsibly to preserve the name of SA mohair.