Analysis October 2022: ‘Russia has control over the Siberian bow hair and isn’t moving much out’

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Everything from Covid-19 to the ongoing situation in Russia has created a perfect storm for suppliers of good violin bow hair

From delayed deliveries and increased prices to limited access to top-quality Mongolian and Siberian horsehair, bow hair suppliers in Europe and North America are feeling the impact of the pandemic on exports from China, where virtually all the bow hair used in the stringed instrument trade is processed. Bow makers, luthiers and violin shops have, in turn, seen prices rise, with some having to resort to using lower-grade hair, or spending more precious time at the bench sorting the hair that they receive.

When The Strad  contacted a number of leading bow hair companies in August, one major supplier in the US was completely out of hair, and did not know how much product would be arriving in its next shipment from China. A hair trader in Europe said he was still waiting for a bow hair delivery that should have arrived in February. Another European supplier has been rationing the size of client orders since 2021 to ensure uninterrupted supply, and is having to turn down enquiries from new customers. 

Michael T. Sowden, an expert bow hair dresser in the UK who has been in the trade for over 50 years and founded the family bow hair business now run by his son, says that the market has experienced an unprecedented tightening. ‘It’s very difficult to get high-quality bow hair now,’ he says. ‘And my agent in China says it’s increasingly hard to get hold of the raw hair. Chinese suppliers put the price up when there’s a shortage, and so the price is the highest it’s ever been, and it will only go up more.’..

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