Toronto, Ontario, Canada — The world’s major fur-clearing house foresees challenging wild fur market conditions heading into the upcoming trapping season.
North American Fur Auctions (NAFA), the largest auctioneer on the continent, confirmed in its most recent fur forecast that the 2013-14 selling season was one of the most difficult environments the organization has faced in its history.
Managing director Herman Jansen said “this was primarily due to one of the warmest winters on record in China, Russia, and Europe.”
Consequently, retails fur sales tumbled, directly impacting both the ranch and wild fur markets, driving down prices and clearances of pelts. Making matters worse, Jansen said, “The mild winter hit at a time when we had previously reached record prices for our product, which also meant record garment prices in retail stores.”
The impact of the weather slashed the majority of wild fur prices anywhere from 30-70 percent off what had previously been stable and welcomed pelt prices. Retail prices were off as much as 50 percent at times. Such a sentiment in the marketplace led to weaker May 2014 sales results. Only a few standouts – among them muskrat and coyote – held firm to the recent pricing trends.
Wild fur stockpiles, however, are not as large as many within the industry would have expected in such conditions, potentially making for a silver-lining of good news for trappers and the industry. Going forward, long-term weather forecasts also include a typical winter for much of the fur-consuming public. When paired with the stockpile conditions, trappers may fare well, depending on the species they lay steel for this season – and also when they run their traplines.
Long-haired furs, destined for the trim trade, are likely to perform the best overall, officials predicted. This includes the canine family – red and grey foxes and coyote.
Muskrat pelts are also projected to continue selling at full clearance and acceptable price levels. What trappers should be mindful of, according to Jansen, is when they target their trapping efforts.
“Low grades, damaged, and early- or late-caught pelts will have little or no commercial value and will be nearly impossible to sell. It will not be worth our producers’ time and effort to process and ship this type of merchandise,” Jansen said. “In a market such as this, any inferior quality skin will be substantially discounted because of the cost of dressing and handling exceeds the value of the pelt.”
Jansen was quick to point out that any downturn in fur prices has historically helped attract new buyers who were unable to afford higher per-pelt averages. This, in theory, drives competition, which can only benefit trappers and the industry as a whole. “We have experienced fluctuations of this nature in the past and they are not new challenges to the fur industry,” he said.
Perhaps the best sign that the fur market may be capable of weathering the conditions are the results for NAFA’s September sale, which generally focuses on clearing held stock in preparation for the upcoming trapping season. Coyote, muskrat, and lynx fully sold, as did the Section I grade furs for mink, fisher, sable, lynx, and red fox. More than 350,000 raccoon pelts were also sold to Russian and Chinese buyers. Beaver, which has been plagued with low prices due to high processing costs, fared better than anticipated, clearing out at more than 75 percent of stock.
While prices were not as high as recent seasons, the focal point for the September auction was the fur clearance levels. Reducing the stockpiles at a time when the trapping and auction seasons are starting to heat up often equates to more aggressive bidding competition.
In response to the auction, which occurred shortly after the release of NAFA’s forecast, Jansen believes the performance could be a signal for the future auctions this year if the winter conditions indeed pan out to be average.
“Overall, the result of this wild fur sale can only be described as better than expected, and hopefully the wild fur market has now turned for the better,” he said.