"Closed. Due to pandemic ". The inscription on the door of the fur shop in Rhodes, in three languages - Greek, Russian and English- posted a few weeks ago, for the second time this year, is perhaps unnecessary, as potential buyers no longer exist due to lockdown and passers-by are few. Corresponding inscriptions, however, there were even in the summer in many shops in Greek resorts, as well as tourists who buy furs on their travels in Greece - mainly Russians- did not come to the expected numbers this year, due to the pandemic.
"Most of them maybe", Fur shops in the tourist areas of the country did not open after the first quarantine, nor for the summer, as the president of the Hellenic Fur Institute reports to APE-MPE, Charalambos Karataglidis, head of the Kastoria Chamber.
Many kilometers away from Rhodes, in Western Macedonia, the quiet outside the crafts is almost surprising: the machines on fur companies, belonging to the affected KAD, have been silenced and all four large tanneries in Kastoria are also suspended. "From February onwards, we are at absolute zero due to the pandemic and lockdown. Auctions were canceled, reports canceled, The trips of the Russians to Greece for shopping were canceled furry and exports, so the situation is definitely very difficult "explains Mr. Karataglidis, clarifying however, that he remains optimistic about the future.
Pending developments, the people who make a living from about 2.000 businesses of Kastoria and Voio in the fur sector, including farms (so many are identified by the president of the Association of Furriers of Kastoria, Apostolos Tsoukas), they do not manage to count the losses.
Losses-losses not only of the pandemic, but a crisis of several years, which began with the Russian embargo on European agri-food products in 2014 and the - catastrophic for the purchasing power of the Russians- continuing devaluation in the Russian currency. A devaluation that began to manifest itself more intensely a few years ago, as a result of the "war in Donbass" in Eastern Ukraine and continues to this day (from approx 28 rubles / euro the 2013, the russian currency has reached the 2015 at their exchange rate 65-70 rubles / euro and today ranges from 85-90 / euro).
China's strengthening in world fur trade, with gun low prices, was another piece of the puzzle of the industry crisis, which peaked this year with the pandemic, the "freezing" of tourism and, most, and with cases of coronavirus in a mink farm in the area, where in approx 85 farms are bred over 1 million furry animals (and have already been killed by euthanasia approximately 2.500, coming from a farm, while checks are being made on more).
From 250 million. euros last year, in 3 million. this year
"The 2019, which was a bad year, our turnover was just 250 million. euro. The corresponding amount in early autumn this year, I guess it was 3 millions "says the president of the Association of Furriers of Kastoria" The Prophet Elias "to APE-MPE, Apostolos Tsoukas.
He adds that in the last two years - the 2019 and 2020 so far- Many fur companies in Kastoria and Siatista have "locked in". "If the fur industry was disappearing, would be lost 2000 businesses, beyond the farms. They would be unemployed 6000 people (SS. self-employed, workers in fur companies, farms and tanneries) and turnover would be lost 250 million. euros per year ", points out (SS. The industry 's total turnover includes exports, the retail sales of furs to foreigners within Greece, but also the fur trade).
As for the big blow from the Russian embargo - since in Russia it was directed over the 90% of industry exports- notes that the gap that arose in the Russian market rushed to fill to a large extent China, but to a lesser extent Turkey, which -according to Mr. Tsoukas- until a few years ago he was active mainly in leather clothing, but from 2010 and then dynamically extended to the fur, considering the opportunity to take advantage of the tourist flows from Russia (SS. It is estimated that they visited Turkey only last year 7 million. Russians, who make significant fur purchases during their holidays).
The fur coat that "leaves" Greece with honor 1000 USD. and "enters" China in 2000…
When the Russian market began to close for Greek fur (which was exempted from the Russian embargo, but lost its buyers, because the Russians turned their backs on "Made in Europe" in general), Greek furriers seek commercial "escapes", to compensate for the loss.
"Some exports were made to Korea, of their order 3 million. euros from Kastoria and Siatista last year and we are fighting very hard to increase them, in collaboration with Enterprise Greece. The USA is also a big market. However, the unique markets, which with their size could keep all Greek furriers active, are Russia and China. In Russia we have the embargo and in China we have very high tariffs, resulting in a coat leaving Greece at 1000 dollars to get there at 2000 USD, while the Chinese are coming to Europe in a hurry "notes Mr. Tsoukas. "The situation is difficult, but I still imagine western Macedonia as the center of the world in fur. Our region has the ability to overcome this reef as well, as long as it is supported "he points out.
Incentives for fur "from your place": Russia
Referring to the downward trend of the industry after 2014-2015, Mr. Karataglidis points out that in addition to imposing an embargo on European products, which negatively affected Greek fur exports as a "collateral loss", The Russian government has also provided incentives to boost domestic fur production. Incentives have boosted local fur production in recent years and helped turn Russians to "their own" products.. Of course, domestic production is still small, to meet their increased need to warm up in the heavy Russian winter, but does not cease to have a market share.
In addition, main supplier of furs in Russia, especially now that Greek exports have fallen sharply, is China, "With which", as Mr. Karataglidis observes, "There is extensive bilateral trade, which is obviously not affected by any embargo, nor from the conditions prevailing within the World Trade Organization, since the two countries have bilateral treaties with each other ".
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However, despite strong pressures, the president of the Hellenic Fur Institute says he is optimistic about the future perspective of the industry: "Despite the problems, Kastoria and Siatista will remain the largest fur production centers in the western world, no matter how much it shrinks. In addition, Global retail demand for furs has not fallen to alarming levels.
Furs are still sold, the problem is that at the moment we can not even sell retail within the borders to tourists, nor to export, because our borders are closed. But imagine the opportunities to increase our share of the Russian market, when the 2019 Russia had retail sales of furs around 2 billion. euros and we sent furs worth them 80 million… The market exists, the aim is to get a bigger share.
God and coronavirus will, maybe some years will pass and surely the pandemic will leave its mark on the business of Kastoria and employment, but eventually we will find our gait. The prospects are there ".