*During auction season, NAFA will provide a monthly wild fur market update that will be published on the last friday of every month, with the next three dates as follows:
Friday, November 25
Friday, December 23
Friday, January 27
Wild Fur Market Update – Market Shows Cautious Optimism
One year ago in September, the Scandinavian auction houses sold ranch mink 100% at prices that were in many cases 50% below the previous June levels. This sharp market decline set the stage for one of the most difficult selling seasons we have had in years. The financial losses for the international fur trade resulting from that sale are still being felt today. However, this year in September, the same auction houses sold mink 100% at firm to increasing prices over June of this year, setting a much more optimistic mood.
As of the end of October 2016, we at NAFA have now sold 100% of all trapper and hunter skins that were in our catalogues this past selling season. The last remaining articles that we sold were grey fox, coyote and lynx cats. They all sold at prices higher than what we could have obtained in our May sale. We are happy to have sold 100% so that we can start the season with a clean slate.
Now that the trapping season has started, the most important advice we have for all of our producers is to only go after fully prime, larger, good quality skins. We believe that we will see a somewhat improved wild fur market, but last year’s rules will still apply – small sizes, improperly handled, poor quality skins will not be saleable at any reasonable price.
We need to remind ourselves that we are still in a buyers’ market for most of our wild fur. The retail season is just starting and as always, Mother Winter needs to give us a helping hand. China’s retail season is just starting. They are the largest consuming nation in the world for fur today. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s mink production is consumed in China. Their economy is stable and consumer confidence remains high. The very low prices obtained in the auctions over the last couple of years are attracting a lot of new consumers into the Chinese fur retail shops. Flatter, less bulky skins such as ranch mink, wild mink, muskrats and sheared otter are preferred by the Chinese consumer. Raccoon tends to be too bulky and after shearing it is too coarse and therefore not attractive. Russia will most likely have a better retail season after last year’s disastrous season. The trimming business in the U.S. and Europe needs to have a cold winter. Last year’s warm winter had a negative impact on all outerwear
On the positive side, coyote, lynx cat, sable and better quality female fisher should all experience a reasonably good selling season. However, with some of the other wild fur varieties, we know there are plenty of skins in the pipeline and retailers and manufacturers will take a cautious approach to the opening of the season. With China expecting a good retail season and Russia a better one than last year, we strongly feel that the later sales will work in our favour, as this will give the retailers time to clear out their inventories and therefore be in an open-to-buy position. Cash is King and the market has very little tolerance for risk.
Coyote – this important trimming article has been in fashion for quite a few years now and all of our early indications are that it will continue to be a very fashionable article. Heavier Western, good quality, pale skins will continue to be paid for very well in the auction room. Damages, low grades and flatter Eastern skins will be difficult to sell as the dressing costs exceed the commercial value. Better Eastern sections that have enough under fur could see a slightly improved selling season.
Red Fox/Grey Fox – again, there will be demand for better quality good skins in this article group. In red fox, fully prime, heavy, dark red colours will see premiums while rubs and flatter sections will be hugely discounted. Grey fox should find a home at last year’s levels.
Muskrat – now that the ranch mink prices have begun to recover from last year’s disastrous levels, muskrat should also follow this trend. Premiums will be paid for the best quality, larger skins only. Demand for smaller sizes and inferior qualities will be extremely weak due to the dressing costs.
Beaver – shearing types, which quite often are caught under the ice, will bring a premium. Dressing a beaver is still, in comparison, very expensive and difficult, which has a major influence on price. The cheaper skins that can be used to make felt hats (the hatter business) are in good demand, but there is a maximum on what they will pay. Smaller sizes are hugely discounted at unattractive prices.
Otter – otter were very inexpensive per square inch this past year and should find a more attractive market in the upcoming selling season. It is an easier article to dress, shear and dye. It’s only negative is the required CITES permit.
Raccoon – there are a lot of raccoon inventories around the world. There are major dealers in the U.S. who have not sold their 2014 and 2015 purchases and are in no position to sell these at the present market levels. At the auction level, all of the raccoon that belonged to our trappers and hunters have been sold. The best Western heavies will find a home and should have no trouble getting last year’s auction prices for fresh goods. For example, a 4XL SEL 2/3 last year sold for $ 16.00 while a 3XL SEL 2-3 sold for $ 13.50. We believe this price structure will be obtained again in the upcoming selling season. Semi-heavies and Southern sections are still going to be very difficult to sell at a reasonably decent level. Our recommendation is to go for the biggest size, heavy, prime skins only. If the trimming business in Europe, North America and China picks up, we could see a bit of an improvement here. Still very difficult.
Lynx Cat – better qualities, larger Western types with colour 1/2 bellies are sought after and did very well in our June sale this year. We believe this will continue. This should help all sections of lynx cats and bobcats. This article is mostly used for trimming on better quality mink coats.
Lynx – quality, colour and size will again be exceptionally important. Clear, clean bellies should go up in price. It makes a beautiful trim and if Russia improves a little bit, the lynx, which are produced in small quantities, could easily see improvement.
Sable – this fashionable article is still in demand from nearly all the important fur markets. For our sable/marten, the Koreans continue to buy the better quality, bigger sizes and colours. Indications are that this will continue. In garments, this makes one of the nicest, light-weight jacket and coat. New dressing and dyeing techniques have helped us and it is retaining its high end status.
Fisher – we are receiving some mixed signals from the retailer on this article. China bought the better quality, silky females as trim for their better quality mink garments. The selling season for this type of garment will start in about a month’s time. Male skins need an improvement in the Russian market. Again, these are not big quantities and prices levels could easily go up.
Articles that will not find a home because of dressing costs, the cost of making plates or garments are squirrels, ermine, opossum and most skunks. We should not actively trap these items at this time as they have no commercial market value. For example, squirrels are used for liners in men’s coats and the cost of making a plate for the liner exceeds the value of the plate. If the market for these articles shows any strength, we will let you know.