Fur Market Could Develop Slowly

A number of recent events that hold the potential to launch an upturn in the demand and prices of several wild fur articles have converged.

Retail activity in Russia and China is reported to be “robust.” This is particularly important in Russia, where a prolonged downturn has affected the movement and price of our raccoon and beaver. Consumer spending in Russia is typically 63 percent of the gross domestic product. It is again approaching normal levels.

That spells good news for Russian fur vendors and, possibly, us.

China is an equally important market, from the standpoint of consumer spending and fur manufacturing for export, and is again expected to be the driving force establishing price.

Russian economic recovery is tied directly to the price of crude oil, which is now approaching $80 per barrel. This recent price spike will likely hold and even increase throughout the remainder of the year.

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the president’s quick ban on new drilling in the Gulf have placed oil producers in Russia and the Middle East in the “catbird seat.” While our “brothers of the cloth”— the commercial fishermen working the Gulf — have been devastated, this event will likely boost the demand for heavy and semi-heavy raccoons and long-hair beavers because of increasing oil revenue flowing into Russia. Other furs might follow suit.

All of this, of course, is speculation. Another unseasonably mild winter in Russia, and all bets are off. We’ve seen it before and no doubt we’ll see it again.

China is a different story. Consumers there are finally discovering wild fur. Slowly. Regardless of weather conditions this season, muskrat and otter markets are expected to remain strong and could see some price increases. These articles are not affected by China growing fur export activity. They are tied to China’s internal consumer consumption, which is growing at about 10 percent or more per year.

Barring further economic turmoil, I suspect that this season will play out about like last year.

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