Signs point to strong prices, but climate and
market reaction to higher output remain unknowns
Anxiety often culminates as we approach trapping seasons. With the high prices of last year, every trapper in the country is excited and anxious.
We’re excited because any trapping season is a good one, and in fact, most of us expect every trapping season to be the best one ever. We’re excited because the leaves are changing color, the trails are starting to appear in prime locations, the animals are furring up nicely, we see more animal movement, nights are getting colder and it just starts smelling like trapping season.
We’re anxious because we know that last year’s fur prices might bring out some competition that did not exist before. We have heard — and seen — the interest displayed by many new trappers everywhere. Old timers who were retired are now coming back in the game. Newcomers want to go big to capitalize on the “easy money.” Overall, we just expect this year to be busier in the fields and woods.
Trap supply dealers unanimously agree that more supplies were sold this year than in any other year before. These record sales of supplies and equipment suggest that many more trappers will be trying to get their share of the fur. In some states and provinces, increases upward of 10 percent in sales of trapping licenses are projected, although it remains to be seen how much of that actually translates into competition in the field.
Many seasoned trappers would say that this is the major downfall of high fur prices — having to cope with more competition for animals or even for properties on which to trap.
Anxiety also exists because no one knows for sure what prices will do. We all hope that prices will remain at levels where they were last year, and the more optimistic trappers among us expect prices to climb even more, but the reality is that it is always a difficult thing to predict fur prices before our trapping seasons start. Of course, some would say that forecasting prices is always difficult, but it is even more so when the real autumn weather remains unknown and no auctions or major sales have happened to tell us where things are headed.
So, if there are many unknowns, what exactly do we know at this stage?
We know that fur is hot in the fashion world, and that is a good thing. What sells fur the most is consumer demand, and demand starts with fashion trends. Now most of us do not follow this fashion world, but I can assure you that the industry is working hard to showcase, display and exhibit fur to show the world how fashionable wild fur really is. We know that wild fur garments and accessories are highlighted in many fashion magazines throughout the world. Magazines such as Vogue, Elle and many others have been very fur friendly in recent years, and this helps drive the demand.
Next on the list is the economy of our buyers. China remains the No. 1 buyer of wild fur, and the Chinese economy is still good. The country is still growing, more fur stores are opening up to satisfy the needs and demands of the newly rich and, overall, no one believes that we have saturated that market yet. So if China is still hungry for fur, that should also help us.
Climate is next. Climate is the one thing that we cannot predict or control. Cold weather sells fur, and warm weather does not. Cold weather is always good, especially if it strikes early into the year. When autumns start off really cold, consumers believe buying fur makes even more sense because the wearing season will be longer, hence that helps justify their purchase. No one likes to be cold, and wearing fur is a logical line of defense against cold weather. But most consumers only buy fur when they need it, so the colder the weather and the sooner it starts, the better it is for us trappers. Alas, this is one variable that we do not yet know, and because it can have such an impact on demand, nothing really is certain yet.
Of course, we can analyze the past. Last year’s sales finished strong and showed little indication of slowing down. Most auction houses have sold their inventory, and this brings optimism. But a little caution remains. When prices soar so high, everyone in the industry gets a little nervous. Then again, we have seen prices climb above expectations during the last few years, so it could happen again.
One thing is for sure — every major auction house is getting ready to handle more volume of wild fur and ranch fur. North American Fur Auctions has added a third auction to its schedule (www.nafa.ca) and Fur Harvesters Auctions (www.furharvesters.com) has announced that it will join forces with American Legend and Saga Furs to sell some of its wild fur collection in Finland in conjunction with the ranch mink sales of American Legend and Saga Furs. Local buyers also are getting ready to handle more volume, and many of the larger trappers expect to be contacted individually for the sale of their skins.
The volume of wild fur is expected to go up significantly, and it remains to be seen what impact it could have on fur prices. I have said before that volume in wild fur can be a good thing. The more skins we offer, the more possible it becomes for large manufacturers to use an item for their large-scale manufacturing plants. So muskrats, raccoons and beavers — three of the most quantity-heavy species we harvest — should see their harvest quantities go up, and this might actually be helpful in terms of prices.
This is a preview of the November 2013 Fur Market Report. The full column, including a species-by-species breakdown of forecasted prices, is available in the November 2013 issue of Trapper & Predator Caller.
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