Fur prices have been low for a long time now. The period of low prices fur harvesters have been experiencing over the past few years has lasted longer than most anyone in the fur business can remember. And most fur items will likely continue to struggle throughout this season. There are a few bright spots in the market, and trappers can capitalize on these items to help pay the bills at a time when most other fur will be low.
Why haven’t fur prices recovered? The fact is, the underlying factors that drive the fur economy haven’t changed. Most fur produced in North America is consumed by Russia and China, with a few other players like South Korea, Italy and Greece. Domestic consumption of North American fur has been nearly nonexistent for decades due to changes in fashion, so we rely primarily on the global market to consume fur produced here.
So we need people in places like Russia and China to have disposable income to buy fur. Economies in both of those countries have been struggling severely over the past few years. Russia’s economy is highly dependent on oil. The country has vast reserves of oil in the ground, and oil exports fuel its well being. Oil prices fell off a cliff a couple years back, and they still have not recovered. In fact, oversupply concerns have oil prices falling even further as I write this. After many years of almost unbelievable economic growth, China’s economy appears to have hit a major slump as well.
With fewer consumers looking to purchase fur coats and accessories in Russia and China, the other major factor driving the price of fur is supply. Unfortunately for most wild fur items, supply of wild caught fur is dwarfed by fur produced from mink and fox ranches. (By most estimates, ranch fur accounts for about 80% of the overall fur market). After a few profitable years, fur farmers increased supply, and the combination of reduced demand and oversupply has resulted in the perfect storm of low fur prices.
So what’s the outlook for the future of fur prices? Fur farms can only lose money for so long, and many are either drastically reducing supply or going out of business. It appears that much of the oversupply in the ranch fur industry should begin to resolve itself sometime around 2020. If oil prices recover around that time, we could be talking about an entirely different market for wild fur two years from now. Until then, though, trappers will have to deal with low fur prices for most items, while capitalizing on the few bright spots in the fur market, like higher end coyote and bobcat pelts.
Looking for more background on the fur market, and alternatives to selling your fur? Check out my book “Fur Profit: A Trapper’s Guide to the Modern Fur Market”.