Fur prices likely to remain low for 2016-17
Waverly, N.Y. — Trappers have a history of getting out there and running a line regardless of fur prices.
That means in New York state they’ll almost assuredly continue that tradition despite anticipated low fur prices again in the 2016-17 season.
“There’s not a lot of optimism for prices to increase this season,” said Steve Koop of Adirondack Outdoor Co., a trapping supply store in Lewis (Essex County) in the heart of the Adirondacks, as well as online. “Most furs will trade at last season’s prices.”
And last season was a forgettable one as far as fur prices. While trappers enjoyed a mild winter that allowed to easier trapline maintenance and decent catches, prices stalled at low levels.
Koop said his trapping supply business is “way off already” due to the anticipated low fur prices. But New York’s trapping fraternity – the state sold over 14,000 trapping licenses for the 2015-16 license year – is a dedicated group and many take part despite the meager return on their investment.
Ironically, fur prices today are largely dictated by the events thousands of miles away in China and Russia, the chief fur markets of today. Political and economic issues in those countries have been major factors in the sluggish fur prices.
“What makes this situation different from the last market drop is that fur is in fashion more than ever,” said Mark Downey, CEO of Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc., of North Bay, Ontario, Canada said in his 2016 fur market forecast. “Once (those issues) are resolved we are likely to return to prices that make us forget everything else. The question is when to expect to see the market head upward. Depending on who you talk to it is anywhere between a few months and a couple of years. We have seen very fast recoveries before and in the case of China it can happen very quickly.”
Until then, however, Koop and most New York trappers don’t have high hopes heading into this trapping season. Koop expects most furs to trade somewhere around last season’s prices.
“Raccoon, beaver and mink will probably see averages under $10,” he said. “Muskrat may advance slightly, depending on what the ranch mink market does. Country buyers are expressing some interest in heavy Eastern coyote. Fisher will remain close to last season’s prices, with $30 as an average.”
But, he added, a shorter fisher season in the state’s Northern Zone this year “means less opportunity to harvest them in December when the fur is more prime.”
Downey maintains some optimism that the Chinese and Russian fur markets could get a boost at some point.
“China has a population of an estimated 1.4 billion, with a growing middle class that has been enjoying buying luxury goods the past decade,” he said. “If China gets a good start to winter and it remains cold it is not unrealistic to expect some wealth to flow down to fur coat purchases and other fur products.”
In Russia, the political climate centers on a devalued ruble that allows for very little buying power outside the country. That said, the country has always been a major player in the fur market.
“The hunger for fashionable fur coats in Russia remains and have been selling well. These shops need to have inventory hanging on racks and fur needs to be bought this coming season to replenish sales. The Russian market will come back stronger than ever, most believe, once the political playing field is cleaned up. Fashionable clothing is always a top priority to the women of Russia and this will not change,” Downey said in his fur forecast.
The ebb and flow of fur prices is nothing new to trappers who are used to the uncertainty heading into the season.
“Nobody can say with any certainty when things will turn around,” Downey said. “What I can say with certainty that I, along with most, will trap as I always have.”