Fur prices hit by slow economy

Herkimer, N.Y. – Global economic problems have created some
uncertainty in fur markers, leaving New York trappers uneasy about
fur prices heading into the season.

Overall expectations have been lowered for 2008-09 fur auctions
as a result of the economic slowdown.

North American Fur Auctions (NAFA), the world’s largest fur
clearinghouse, acknowledged in a statement last month the deepening
economic crisis is now being felt in the fur marketplace as
economies of countries that typically buy fur, such as China and
Russia, have also faltered.

NAFA’s outlook from a global standpoint had been optimistic as
recently as Nov. 10, when the auction house reiterated its position
that fur would still be in demand from the typical fur-buying
nations.

The dramatic change in the market forecast, however, arose from
remarks made by the Russian and Chinese governments that their
economies were now beginning to be negatively impacted by the
downward trends experienced in the United States, southeast Asia,
and western Europe. NAFA officials noted these governments rarely
comment on domestic economic struggles, and that was a signal the
countries may have reduced buying power at their auctions this
season.

In a Nov. 21 statement, NAFA_Chief Executive Officer Herman
Jensen said the weather has also contributed to the lower
expectations.

“The weather is our most important factor, and unfortunately, in
most of our retail markets, the weather has not been on our side so
far this season. It is just starting to get cold in Russia, with
temperatures hovering around freezing,” Jensen said.

Dave Leibig, president of the New York State Trappers
Association (NYSTA), believes the overall impact for trappers in
the Empire State will be similar to those across the country.

“This is one of those times where trappers in New York will be
tested to fetch the best possible price for their fur,” Leibig
said. “There’s no escaping this season’s prices by selling to
another buyer, since this is such a widespread issue.”

Buyers at the local and regional levels are taking in fur purely
on speculation, risking their paying price against what will be
realized at the large-scale auctions conducted by NAFA and other
major fur houses. This speculation is driving down prices across
the board for all species of furbearers, officials said.

One item that was expected to be in demand this season was
raccoon, with last year’s prices reaching over $20 at local New
York auctions for large-sized prime selections.

“This price caused many trappers to plan trap lines that target
‘coon. Now that the economies of the countries that buy raccoon are
not doing well, those prices are not going to re-occur,” Leibig
said. “Much of what I’m hearing from trappers who have sold raccoon
fur already is that the prices are half of what they thought they
would be, and they’re not happy about it.”

To compensate for the poor market conditions, some trappers are
resorting to selling to different markets altogether. Businesses
such as taxidermy, crafts, and historical shows and rendezvous
often have prospective buyers looking for quality fur. “Trappers
may not sell all their furs this way, but they can get decent money
for some of their better selections by selling directly to a retail
or end user,” Leibig said.

Despite the plummeting fur prices, Leibig still expected New
York trappers to run their lines again this season.

“I think most trappers in the state do so because of the love
for the sport and simply getting outdoors; only the one’s who trap
when the money is at extremely high levels will get out trapping
this year,” he said.

For more information on fur market conditions, visit NAFA’s Web
site at www.nafa.ca.

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