Mohair Support Programme critical to entrenching EC as global production capital

The prospects of black mohair producers in the Eastern Cape received a major boost following a R1,4 million injection into four emerging angora goat farming operations in Somerset East in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, on the 11 April 2024.

The financial injection is a result of a collaboration between the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), an entity of the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) and the Mohair Empowerment Trust (MET) which is an initiative of Mohair South Africa. The Mohair Industry Support Programme initiative aims to transform the mohair industry by commercialising the operations of emerging black angora goat farmers and to introduce them to the global mohair value chain. According to Mohair South Africa, South African angora goat farmers produce 54% of global mohair production, with Eastern Cape farmers producing 73% of South African mohair production.

“The four farms are the Driefontein Farm in Somerset East which received R546,800 to buy 200 angora goats and piping for irrigation from the ECDC-administered Imvaba Cooperatives Fund and Uitkomst Farm in Jansenville which received R561,978 from the Imvaba Cooperatives Fund for a fully-equipped irrigation system. The system will allow the farm to produce its own feed. In addition, Irene Farm in Graaf Reinet received R149,000 from the ECDC’s Small Town, Township and Rural Enterprise Support Programme (STTREP) to buy 130 angora goats and Rhulani Farm in Cookhouse received R143,231 from the same programme for solar panels to produce power at the farm.

“The funding support follows the conclusion of a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in September 2023 between the ECDC and the Mohair Empowerment Trust (MET) to support emerging angora goat farmers and to facilitate funding opportunities for them. A further R1 million has been made available by the ECDC through its economic development coordination and sector support initiative to assist 12 farmers in the MET mohair support programme with shearing sheds tools for mohair sorting, classing and shearing efficiency,” said MEC for DEDEAT Mlungisi Mvoko, who delivered the keynote address at the launch of the Mohair Industry Support Programme.

Mvoko said the launch of the programme also recognises the collaborative effort between the ECDC and the MET which is an initiative of Mohair South Africa. This collaboration culminated in the signing of a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at supporting the growth, development and commercialisation efforts of emerging black angora goat farmers in the Eastern Cape, particularly in the Sarah Baartman Municipality. Today’s launch is intended to demonstrate the success achieved through collaboration and coordination in sector development. The goal is to assist previously disadvantaged individuals to become financially independent by producing quality mohair. This is being achieved through partnerships between the mohair industry and government departments on a local and national level.

ECDC chief executive officer Ayanda Wakaba says the conclusion of the MoU provides access to ECDC incentives and economic development support from these emerging black angora goat farmers.

“The MoU facilitates access to ECDC’s financial and economic development support and to the MET’s technical support to promote the sustainability, revenue generation and commercialisation efforts of these farmers. They will benefit from technical skills transfer while improving the quality of the mohair they produce. The objective is to transform the industry by bringing into the commercial value chain more mohair producers from previously disadvantaged groups.

This project has turned the fortunes of these black farmers who have thirty-year leases on the farms owned by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Introducing these farmers to angora goat farming, capacity building and funding has greatly improved the profitability and sustainability of these development farms in their pursuit to be commercial farmers,” Wakaba said.

The Nelson Mandela Bay region is considered the global mohair capital because its port handles the bulk of South African exports. The region has the largest mohair spinner in the world in Kariega and another in Gqeberha not far behind. In addition, 90% of the produce is channelled through the ports of Ngqura and Gqeberha of which 70% is exported to Italy and China. The clip (hair) taken from Angora goat is called mohair. Versatile by nature, mohair is coveted by the world’s fashion industry elite, as well as by interior designers, designers, craft specialists, industrial fibre specialists and the tourism sector. Mohair manufacturers maximise on the fibre’s unrivalled natural beauty, capitalising on its rare, natural qualities.

The combination of best practice farming and best environment for Angora goats has set South Africa apart. South African mohair is globally acknowledged as one of the finest natural fibres money can buy.

Most of the rest of the world’s mohair is imported into Gqeberha and processed at Gubb & Inngs (part of the Stucken Group) in Kariega and Samil Processing near King Williams Town from where it is exported. Farms in the small towns of Aberdeen, Somerset East, Jansenville and Willowmore routinely produce nearly half of South Africa’s production. Processing of mohair takes place in Kariega, Gqeberha and Ntabozuko outside East London. The mohair value chain includes brokers, buyers, processors, spinners, manufacturers and retailers.

Between 800 and 900 commercial farmers produce mohair with approximately 30 000 people benefiting from this niche fibre.