By Gielie Grobler
In 1896 the Mohair Growers’ Association was formed to act as a mouthpiece for the growers. Unfortunately this association was destined to last for only eight years when it broke up in 1904 over a move to introduce closing of mohair prior to marketing!
Several further attempts to form a growers’ organisation did not succeed and it was only on 16 August 1941 when a group of farmers met in Jansenville that the current SA Mohair Growers’ Association was finally formed. The first Executive Committee consisted of Messrs AB Hobson (Chairman), PP Ferreira (Vice-Chairman), EHG Outram (Hon.Secretary), RAP Trollip (Bedford), GJ Knoesen (Steytlerville), JB Grewar (Uitenhage), E Cawood (Cradock), JH Hobson (Pearston), C van Schalkwyk (Willowmore) and SC Fitzhenry (Jansenville).
During the course of time the closest co-operation possible developed with the Brokers’ and Buyers’ organisations and through valuable support given by the then South African Agricultural Union, the active interest of Government departments was enlisted.
At the 1949 congress of the Association resolutions were passed that asked for the establishment of a mohair board, the introduction for a levy on all mohair sold for export for the purpose of providing funds for a sound marketing scheme, research and for promotion of mohair and mohair products. Subsequent negotiations between the Association and the Brokers’ Association resulted in the firs auction sale of mohair in South Africa being held in Port Elizabeth on 20 December 1949. This had a very positive effect and prices for mohair rose steeply.
On 5 January 1951 notices in the Government Gazette made provision for the introduction of a levy on mohair, regulation pertaining to the packing, marketing and inspection of mohair intended for export. The Mohair Advisory Board came into being shortly afterwards and was destined to play a major role in the affairs of the industry.
Auction sales demonstrated the value of proper classing standards and the first Classing Regulations were promulgated in 1951.
In the meantime the Mohair Growers’ Association had grown considerable and by 1956 it consisted of some 10 branches with a total membership of over 800 growers. Owing to the consistently high prices that were being paid for mohair, interest developed rapidly in the farming of Angora goats and mohair in an ever widening field, and it became necessary to have a full-time secretary and organiser. Mr MC Grobler was appointed to this position on 1 April 1956 and a permanent office of the Association was opened in Jansenville.
A long felt need was realised in January 1959 when the first issue of the Angora Goat and Mohair Journal was published. This specialised publication had been mooted for some time by the Mohair Growers’ Association and the Ram Breeders’ Society and with the financial backing of the Mohair Advisory Board, it became firmly established as an important factor in the growth of the mohair industry in South Africa.
Through the good offices of the Mohair Advisory Board and various Government Departments concerned, an office complex was built in Jansenville and was opened on 21 April 1961 by the then Minister of Agricultural Economics & Marketing, Mr DCH Uys.
The production of mohair increased quite rapidly in the late seventies and early eighties with the fashion demand for hand knitting yarns, and by 1988 mohair production reached a peak of 26,2 million kg world wide with South Africa producing 12 million kg. Since that time production has decreased alarmingly and there is general concern about the current level of production.
The growth and expansion in the industry called for greater autonomy and by 1964 the Mohair Board was established with much wider powers on authority than the Advisory Board. This body did sterling work for the primarily industry especially abroad to create an awareness of Cape Mohair. It was mainly through the efforts of the then Chairman of the Mohair Board, Mr Tony Hobson, that the International Mohair Board was formed in 1974 with its offices in the UK.
Far reaching changes in the constitutional dispensation in South Africa since 2 February 1990, led to the disbandment of all agricultural marketing boards in the country, and under the guidance of the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr Derick Hanekom, and the Marketing Council privatization of their boards commenced soon after the 1994 election.
The Mohair Growers’ Association, through their annual congress, played a major role in mapping out the structures to replace the Mohair Board. It resulted in the establishment of the Mohair Trust, whose task it is to look after the assets of the industry that had been accumulated of a number of years, as well as an article 21 Company, Mohair South Africa, which forms the executive arm of the industry, and is representative of all the important role players in the industry.
Since 2007 the industry embarked on a new and exciting route, that of becoming involved in Black Economic Empowerment in the industry. To facilitate and support these efforts, the Mohair Empowerment Trust was formed in 2011.
This in brief is the story of the SA Mohair Growers’ Association and the important role it played and continues to play in the development of the mohair industry, not only in South Africa, but also abroad.