Discussing the Responsible Mohair Standard with Mohair SA’s General Manager

September 2019 Newsletter 

Progress is continuing in the development of the Responsible Mohair Standard. In their October/November 2019 issue, yarn, fibre and fabric magazine Twist spoke to Lindsay Humphreys, our General Manager, to find out more.

Further discussions about the new Responsible Mohair Standard, which is being drawn up by Textile Exchange with the support of Mohair South Africa, will take place at this year’s Textile Exchange Conference, being held in Vancouver, Canada on 15-18 October.

Mohair SA is working closely with Textile Exchange to incorporate its existing Sustainable Production Guidelines into the internationally recognised Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) protocol. A draft Responsible Mohair Standard (RMS) is currently being piloted on farms, while relevant stakeholders are also being consulted. 

A number of international working groups, comprising industry leaders, brands and retailers, as well as animal welfare organisations, are currently in the process of discussing key issues within the RMS. 

“Topics like animal handling, shearing practices and land/resource management are some of the points that are being discussed,” Lindsay Humphreys, general manager at Mohair SA, revealed to Twist. “These working groups will then inform the next draft of the RMS that will be discussed at Textile Exchange’s conference in Vancouver in October.”

The goal of the RMS is to provide the industry with a tool to easily recognise mohair farmers using best practices, ensuring that the fibre is produced at farms with a progressive approach to managing their land and a commitment to treating their goats ethically and responsibly. Humphreys says that the RMS will take the mohair industry’s existing Sustainable Production Guidelines to a new global level.

“Mohair SA spent the last decade building the brand of mohair as a luxury fibre that is produced sustainably and ethically, which was evident in the growing demand and price increases,” she explains.

“Sustainable Production Guidelines were introduced in 2009, and Mohair SA’s ongoing commitment has led it to partner with Textile Exchange in developing global mohair standards with one goal in mind: taking these guidelines to a higher level with the promise of responsible farming and mohair production to the global market.”

Textile Exchange is a global non-profit that drives industry transformation in preferred fibres, integrity and standards, and responsible supply networks. The organisation identifies and shares best practices regarding farming, materials, processing, traceability and product end-of life, in order to reduce the textile industry’s impact on the planet’s water, soil, air and human population.

Humphreys believes that Mohair SA’s partnership with Textile Exchange and the ongoing development of the RMS are helping to change perceptions about mohair. “These developments have provided education to many brands,” she says. “We have begun to feel a shift in perception and have received support from brands and retailers, which we are in constant communication with.”

Earlier this year, in March, Mohair SA invited Textile Exchange and brand representatives from Filippa K and member brands Acne Studios and John Lewis on a field trip to learn about the mohair supply chain. The trip explored each stage of the mohair value chain, with a particular focus on visiting farms and meeting with farmers to better understand how animal welfare and land health is managed and how the draft RMS could be applied.

Then in June the Mohair SA team travelled to the UK to attend brand and retailer meetings at the John Lewis head office in London. The meetings, held in collaboration with Textile Exchange and the sustainability department at John Lewis, discussed the development of the RMS and gave insight into the industry, as well as providing the opportunity to ask questions.

Later in the same month, Mohair SA, again alongside Textile Exchange, was able to provide updates to many other retail brands and designers at Pitti Filati, held on 26-28 June in Florence, Italy. Mohair SA had a busy stand throughout the show, with a strong focus on sustainability (see pages 20-22). The booth was brought to life with a selection of mohair pieces inspired by the picturesque colours of the Karoo vegetation.

Global leader

South Africa is still the world’s largest mohair producing country, with 47% of global production taking place in the country’s Karoo region. Over the past five years production has steadily decreased, mostly due to the crippling drought that has plagued large parts of the country. In 2018 total global mohair production dropped to the lowest it’s been since 2011, with South Africa producing 2.24 million kg of the world’s total 4.7 million kg.

However, prices have steadily increased over the same period, which Humphreys puts down to a growing demand for the fibre. She also notes that some parts of the Karoo region have received some much needed rain over recent months. “We will tally production figures at the end of 2019 to see how better conditions in places have influenced mohair quantities,” she says.

Italy and China remain the biggest importers of South African mohair, with Europe demanding finer classes of the fibre and Asia looking for stronger variants. China was the number one export market until 2018 when Italy took the top spot.

“The drought not only affected mohair quantities, but also led to goats producing finer mohair – perfect for the European market,” Humphreys reports. “Lower quantities of stronger mohair, coupled with external pressure on China’s economy, also impacted these figures.”
Humphreys adds that due to the ongoing trade war between the USA and China, which is negatively affecting the buying power of China, “prices for stronger mohair will remain under pressure in the short term.”

Meanwhile, as it looks to tackle a range of challenges, South Africa’s mohair sector is working increasingly closely with the country’s wool industry to help resolve common issues. 

A collaboration of industry leaders from both sectors commenced in January, and on 28 May, Mohair South Africa, alongside Cape Wools, hosted a joint meeting which brought together 14 stakeholders representing both the wool and mohair industries in South Africa. The meeting focused on the common challenges facing both sectors and finding the most efficient solutions.

“The meeting was effective in identifying and prioritising the challenges requiring immediate attention and scheduling solution-oriented initiatives to address these issues,” Humphreys reports, adding that updates on further progress will be provided soon.

This article was originally published in Twist Magazine. To read the full feature, please click here.