Fur Market Report: September 2006
By Parker Dozhier
In two months, fur seasons will begin opening in the northern states. Now is the time fur harvesters begin formulating plans and dreaming of the catches yet to be made.
Lure, trap and equipment sales have been good. No doubt, the increased sales are being spurred by favorable prices witnessed at the end of last season.
Recruitment of newcomers into the trapping craft seems to be increasing — judging by sales of how-to books, videos and demand for personal instruction. Surprisingly, some dealers have reported book and video sales are super, and in some cases, beyond expectations.
For most trappers, the season’s final fur check is simply icing on the cake. Certainly, a large take and favorable prices are welcome, but those elements are secondary to the lifestyle and tradition that only trappers and fur hunters can fully appreciate. Times really haven’t changed that much in 300 years.
Much like last season, many trappers will be keeping a sharp eye on the cost of producing fur. The size of the catch that arrives in the fur shed will be in direct relation to the cost of fuel. Gasoline prices are high now, and the prospect of any significant downward adjustment appears unlikely.
The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East has pushed the worldwide oil market into a panic-buying mode. Futures speculators are pushing prices higher each day. Any disruption in the flow of oil would send the pump price into orbit.
Our raw fur trade is as volatile as the market for crude oil. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that mink, beaver, fox, bobcat, muskrat, fisher, marten and heavy coyote will find willing buyers and reasonably favorable prices.
Heading into the season, otter and raccoon are the obvious areas of concern.
Slowly, the carryover of raccoons is being absorbed. Possibly, some light will be shed on the future of the raccoon market for this season by mid-December or January. Until then, most buying will be based on speculation. And prices will likely be cheap.
The otter issue is somewhat more complicated. In the Chinese culture, “face” is of paramount importance. An individual can lose face through lack of performance, failure in the eyes of peers or failure to live up to the expectations of others. More importantly, the entire nation of China could lose face by presenting an image of being outside the mainstream. Therein lies a large part of the otter problem, and the freedom of moving our otters into the Chinese market at the present time.
The Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is only a part of the problem China has in maintaining face. Animal rights groups are attacking Chinese officials on several fronts.
Rabies is serious problem in China — killing more than 2,000 people each year. To address this problem, Chinese officials recently ordered the killing of 50,000 domestic non-immunized dogs in Yunnan province.
With no regard for human lives, animal-rights fanatics began immediately attacking the Chinese officials and their policies. The groups are aided by their lapdog accomplices — the free world mainstream media — who are quoting extensively from the press releases issued by the animal rights groups.
The earlier press accounts issued from the Dalai Lama’s group regarding protecting endangered species was just the beginning.
An associate of mine recently asked a Chinese colleague why China is suddenly focused on compliance with CITES and barring the importation of our legal otter. The young Chinese scientist thought for a moment, then she simply replied, “The Olympics.”
In 2008, the eyes of the world will be on China when it hosts the Olympics. Already, China has invested $160 billion in facilities and infrastructure for the events. And already, animal rights groups are attacking China for its animal usage.
In the coming months, we can expect to see animal rights groups attack every aspect of the Chinese culture connected with animal use.
Our furs will only be one element of this extensive media campaign. Shark fin soup, bear gall bladder, Tibetan antelope, goose down, yak leather and a list of natural and renewable products too long for this column will be presented to the world by the media.
All use of animal products — of which China is a world leader — will be brought to the attention of potential Olympic visitors. The desire is to cause economic damage.
Our otter market is simply one of the first causalities. More will follow.
Every half-truth, outright lie and exaggeration animal rights groups have used to attack our traditions and culture will be directed toward the Chinese in an attempt to cause the loss of face.
By discouraging potential guests from attending Olympic events, the animal rights groups intend to change the Chinese culture. I suspect the Chinese officials will make some concessions to save face — but not many.