Banks Seize Herds as Recession Hits Mongolia

Badly managed loans and overconfidence in cashmere have Mongolians in default

By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 20, 2009 10:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – Proving the recession is truly global, banks in Mongolia are threatening to foreclose on herders’ goats, sheep, and camels, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mongolians call it a financial “zud,” a local term for unusually devastating winters. Falling cashmere prices stemming from the West’s recession—the high-end textile market shed 33% in a year—have hit Mongolia’s herding households particularly hard.

Mongolia, with 2.6 million people and a quarter of households tied to herding, gambled on stable high prices for cashmere, with many borrowing excessively to purchase goods like solar panels and motorbikes. As in the West, banks didn’t manage risks well. New lending has dried up and the forced selling of herds has cut animal prices in half.

Mongolian leather workers prepare sheepskins for export to China in a tannery in Ulan Batur. Mongolian society is largely dependent on nomadic sheep farming.
Mongolian leather workers prepare sheepskins for export to China in a tannery in Ulan Batur. Mongolian society is largely dependent on nomadic sheep farming.   (Getty Images)
Two camels are seen tied to a basketball net near of Mongolia's capital city Ulan Baator. Mongolians are being forced to sell their livestock by banks foreclosing on loans.
Two camels are seen tied to a basketball net near of Mongolia's capital city Ulan Baator. Mongolians are being forced to sell their livestock by banks foreclosing on loans.   (Getty Images)
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I don't know what to do. I can't go back to the countryside because I have no animals. And I can't stay here because I can't find a job.
- Purevdelger Budkhuu, 38-year-old Mongolian widow who was forced to sell her herd to pay creditors

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