In the near future, the next time you put on your scarf, beret or a pair of gloves and it might be from Angora rabbit fibre!?
That is if development financier, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and Port Elizabeth-based Equipt Consulting have their way. ECDC has already committed some R850 000 into the Eastern Capes first pilot project investigating the possible production of clothing and apparel using Angora rabbit fibre.
The brainchild of Equipt Consulting Angora rabbit pilot is being billed as a solid competitor to the popular Angora goats’ mohair. During this pilot phase, 100 rabbits are being bred, groomed, and will have their fibre harvested; with the first harvest due in April 2015 and every 4 months thereafter. This pilot project has been initiated with hopes to duplicate the project throughout the province and in the process, also highlight some of the medicinal effects of this fibre.
“According to a study conducted by Equipt Consulting, Angora rabbit fibre is said to be seven times warmer than wool. Apart from being seven times warmer than normal wool, Angora rabbit fibre is thinner, offers more comfort and has a certain glow (referred to as ‘halo’) that is enhanced whenever you wash a garment made from it. Furthermore, there has been proof of medicinal effects to people with arthritis.
“In the Eastern Cape, the production of Angora goat mohair dominates the luxurious fibre market and through this pilot, we wanted to determine the feasibility of Angora rabbit fibre products,” says Equipt Consulting pilot project leader Donevin Lesch.
With China being the largest producer of Angora rabbit fibre, Equipt Consulting also aims to become the largest producer within the province in the next two years and in South Africa soon thereafter with the capacity to trade in international markets.
“The agro-processing sector can ensure both provincial and national skills transfer and training, while in the process address poverty alleviation through jobs creation. We seek to produce and export locally made garments, with our main target being the northern hemisphere as it is colder and subsequently the southern hemisphere during the winter season,” explains Lesch.
ECDC business advisor, Wendy Hempe, says that through its innovative risk capital facility, the financier takes the first risk to research, develop and establish new economic growth sectors.
“Development Finance Institutions that work are those that invest in high-risk projects with a potential for high returns. Through ECDCs innovative risk capital, the funder provides start-up funding to support the preparation of projects such as Angora rabbits for further development and research into market-ready products. The long-term objective is the development of a high-quality pipeline of loans and equity investments.
“Making use of this risk capital facility ECDC was able to provide training for a project which we believe contributes to our quest of developing a high-quality pipeline of loans and equity investments. ECDC is also currently overseeing the commencement of the construction of a structure to house these rabbits,” Hempe says.
She says businesses such as Equipt Consulting have a potential to create future high return businesses for ECDC which should be used to finance ECDCs development mandate. They also create a pipeline of quality loans for the corporation’s development finance division.
Although the industry is relatively small, it is extremely labour intensive as Angora rabbits are sensitive creatures that need to be handled with care. With Equipt’s highly trained staff, Lesch says the company is able to provide good care for the rabbits and in turn be able to get their fibre without any harm to the rabbits.
Hempe says ECDC will continue to fund feasibility studies, testing for market-readiness, trials, prototypes and the compilation of business plans for commercialization to this risky segment of the market which as exciting yet untested ideas.
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