EU’s Sanctions on Russia Devastate Greece’s Fur Industry

ATHENS – Greece’s fur industry, concentrated in Kastoria in the northwestern part of the country, has seen sales plunge after European Union sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine took away its biggest market: rich Russian buyers.

They love the expensive mink coats and other furs but unable to get them, leaving the industry in the city reeling and even seeing some makers go to Russia to work there, but with limited stays.

In a feature, Agence France Presse (AFP) revealed how dire the situation is, with a huge fur exhibition hall in the city empty over the sanctions and as the industry is under siege by animal lovers who want it ended.


Fur is among the luxury goods whose export to Russia has been banned, leaving China as the next biggest market but already dozens of businesses in  Kastoria and Siatista – which have produced furs since the 15th Century – have closed.

“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 told the news site about their plight now.

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 ($212,998) that puts them out of reach except for the wealthy.

Tsoukas said before the COVID-19 struck in 2019 that fur exports brought in earned 108 million euros ($115.02 million), almost half of it from Russia, that market now not available during the sanctions.

Another 21.5 million euros ($22.9 million) in fur was sold in the United Arab Emirates, most quickly bought up by Russians while Ukrainians purchased another 10 million euros ($10.65 million) before the Coronavirus struck.

Unable to sell their goods, the fur makers also had to cull millions of mink on fur farms because they were infected with the virus and now many have moved to Russia to find fur work there, the report said.

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, but their stay is limited to three months.

According to official figures, half of the 4,000 fur artisans in Siatista and Kastoria have been forced to leave the profession this year and mink farms in the region have halved production, Miltos Karakoulakis, spokesman for the Panhellenic association of fur-bearing animal breeders told AFP.

“We’re trying to stay alive in business by making mouton fur,” explained Stelios Porporis,  Marketing Director at one of the largest fur businesses in the area, referring to sheepskins made to look like beaver or seal fur instead.



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