| Welcome to Global Village Space

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia sanctions cripple Greek fur industry

While the fur industry has declined in recent decades after fierce campaigning from animal-rights activists who decry its cruelty, the material has remained sought after in countries like Russia and China.

In a large exhibition hall in northern Greece, Russian women would once strike a pose in a gold throne-like armchair, wrapped in their brand-new furs.

“They felt like tsarinas. Now, nobody sets foot in here,” said a hall employee who declined to give his name.

While the fur industry has declined in recent decades after fierce campaigning from animal-rights activists who decry its cruelty, the material has remained sought after in countries like Russia and China.

Read more: Wagner chief slams ‘bureaucracy’ slowing Russian offensive

In Greece, a major centre of fur exports to Russia, European Union sanctions on Moscow have dealt the industry yet another blow.

Fur is among the luxury goods whose export to Russia has been banned.

Dozens of businesses in northern Kastoria and Siatista — which have produced furs since the 15th century — have had to close down in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are suspending our operations. I sidelined 80 percent of my staff, a total of 52 people,” said Akis Tsoukas, the head of the Hellenic fur federation.

An Ernst and Young study in 2019 found that fur was among Greece’s top 12 exports, with some coats selling for as much as 200,000 euros ($213,000).

Tsoukas said before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019 — fur exports earned 108 million euros ($116 million), almost half of it from Russia.

Another 21.5 million euros in fur was sold in the United Arab Emirates, where it was also mostly snapped up by Russians. Ukraine took another 10 million euros worth of product.

A year later, exports essentially fell to zero, Tsoukas said.

The pandemic hit the industry hard, with millions of mink culled on fur farms after some animals tested positive for the virus.

Read more: Ukraine accuses Russia of using spy balloons

– ‘We are in despair’ –

Unable to export their goods, local artisans are moving to Russia to try and find work.

“My father was a furrier and I learned the craft from a very young age,” said Apostolis Gravas, a 47-year-old who runs his family’s fur business in Siatista.

“Coronavirus and the war have wiped us out. We are in despair. That’s why I looked for work in Russia. Many people like me go to Russia to find a job,” he told AFP.

Maria Fotis, who has worked in the sector since 1979, said Russia was looking for experienced workers to join their own industry.

“I haven’t seen them being bothered that much by the war. As they can no longer buy from Greece, they started producing and selling fur there,” she said.

At the workshop in Chelyabinsk, southern Russia, where she found employment, Fotis said six out of eight employees were Greek.

“But you can stay there only three months, until the visa expires,” she noted.