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All is quiet. That’s the story thus far in the 2015-2016 market for wild fur. Folks are looking everywhere for answers to how much money they can expect to get for fur this season, but the answers aren’t coming easy. In short, based on all information available to date, I think we can expect fur prices to be extremely low over the next few months, and possibly over the next couple of years.
That’s right – low, low fur prices. Bottom of the barrel. In most cases, fur will sell for far less than what you’ll spend to trap it. For most people who trap as a lifestyle, hobby, for wildlife population management, or other non-monetary reasons, that may not be a big deal. The folks who trap for income will hurt this year.
Why are fur prices going to be so low? Two words. China and Russia. Those two countries basically control the modern world market for wild fur because their citizens purchase the vast majority of the garments produced with the fur we trap. Russia’s economy relies heavily on the production of crude oil, and the recent crash in oil prices has sent the country in an economic free-fall. The Chinese economy has, in many ways, been growing at an un-sustainably high rate, and it’s beginning to experience some serious growing pains. So the folks who buy most of North America’s wild fur don’t have money to spend. No buyers means no market.
The first major fur auctions that serve as a barometer for the wild fur market are still at least a month away, but early indicators of a poor market were the terrible results of the September ranch mink sales, which declined 50% or more from previous levels. Another indicator is the huge backlog of fur on inventory at North American Fur Auctions. Due to poor prices at last spring’s fur sales, NAFA held back a large quantity of fur, hoping to hold out for better prices. Unfortunately, market fundamentals have only gotten worse since those sales. This backlog must be cleared out in order to sell much of the fur caught and shipped this fall.
Here are a few details.
Raccoon and beaver will be very difficult to sell this year, and prices will be very low. However, demand for beaver castor remains high, and a lower beaver catch should continue to push castor prices upward. Lower quality coons will not be saleable, while top coons may bring $5-15.
Wild mink and muskrat will both be hurt by the low ranch mink prices. Word of Italy advertising wild mink as a humane alternative to pen-raised mink to younger consumers may provide a surprise boost in the mink market, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it. Expect $5-10. Muskrats have been averaging $3 a piece at local auctions, but the price is expected to decline over the next few months.
Coyote is mainly used for trim, and this market is not affected as much by Russia and China, so coyote prices should remain decent. As with coyote, bobcat and fisher (especially female fisher) prices shouldn’t decline too much from last year’s levels, and may even hold steady to last year. Marten is a specialty item and should hold value as well.
Other furs should trade at lower levels due to the depressed market, but remember – there is much uncertainty in the market and a lot can change between now and next spring, when most of the fur will be moved.
Things are looking down in the fur market right now. But we’ve seen tough times before and we will again. The fur market has been around for hundreds of years. Fur is a high quality product that continues to be in demand, and there will always be a market for that. Here’s to hoping it gets better soon.