Already down allegedly due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, fur sales crash at first pelt auctions of 2022
NORTH BAY, Ontario––North Bay Fur Harvesters Auction chief executive Mark Downey blames the Russian invasion of Ukraine for what appear to be the most depressed trapped fur pelt sales since 1999.
Founded in 1991, the North Bay Fur Harvesters Auction is the biggest trapped fur auction in North America, and is among the few fur auctions worldwide to sell fur pelts throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Trappers expected trapped fur prices and sales to soar in 2022, with 15 European Union nations having banned or begun phase-outs of mink ranching since 2000.
Eleven European Union nations and the Canadian province of British Columbia either quit or suspended mink farming in 2021 alone, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic spreading into ranched mink.
North Bay auction sold 39%
But such was not the case.
North Bay Fur Harvesters auctions reportedly sold 55% of pelts offered in 2021, but the first North Bay auction of 2022, held online from March 24 through March 28, sold only 39% of the pelts offered.
This was well above the apparent record low of 23% at the North Bay auction of December 14, 1999, but not nearly enough to keep trappers active for the money involved.
For the sake of sheer sadism may be another matter.
Wrote Downey in his auction report, “On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and this war rages on. Both of these countries have been enormous supporters for many years, buying the top goods in a great many wild fur species. Ukraine now is in no position to purchase goods and Russia is blocked with sanctions disallowing import of luxury goods from Canada.
“The industry will also have to cope with the lack of access to markets in Ukraine and Russia,” Downey continued, the latter being the world’s second-largest for fur, but targeted by Canadian and allied economic sanctions.”
Kopenhagen Fur Center sold just 5%
But the slumping North Bay Fur Harvesters sales were hardly the worst of 2022 thus far for fur sellers.
Observed Downey, “Kopenhagen Fur Center’s February 2022 auction ended with them selling 5% of their total offering, followed by Finland’s SAGA Furs doing slightly better. On March 23, 2022, the day before our March auction began, Kopenhagen Fur Center announced they were cancelling their April auction due to the global issues mentioned earlier in this report. Our auction commenced the following day as scheduled.
“The war between Ukraine and Russia is a huge handicap,” Downey assessed, “because our (other) big buyers from Greece, Italy and Turkey [sell] their manufactured (fur) products into Russia and Ukraine,” and are “subject to the sanctions.”
Said Downey to Agence France Presse, predicting an eventual fur sales comeback, “The fur industry’s been around.”
Trapper Ray Gall put another twist on the theme.
“The oldest profession”
“It’s the oldest profession” in Canada, said Gall, 47, identified by Agence France Presse as “a municipal water worker who traps foxes, wolves, and coyotes in his spare time in forests about a three-hour drive north of Toronto.
The phrase “the oldest profession” is usually associated with a formerly often fur-wearing segment of the workforce, but wearing real fur appears to have fallen out of vogue among that sector, too.
“Canada is the largest producer of wild furs in the world,” reported Agence France Presse, “with some 415,000 pelts sold in the 2019-2020 season for a total of $11 million” in U.S dollars.
But according to data gathered in 1986 by Stephen Best of the long defunct International Wildlife Coalition, the Canadian trapped fur industry was then around 10 times as big, with more self-professed full-time trappers in the province of Quebec alone than in the whole of Canada today.
Chinese fur pelt demand also down
Canadian trapped fur sales fell from circa 4.5 million per year during the decade from 1976 through 1985 to about one million sold in 2001, and have fallen to less than half as much in recent years..
Summarized Karen Mazurkewich for the Toronto Globe & Mail in 2007, “as anti-fur protests raged and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stigmatized fur,
sales of wild pelts dropped to $18 million [Canadian dollars], and then a growing Russian market brought the tally back to $50 million in the mid-1990s, only to have a ruble devaluation in
1998 leave trappers in the lurch again.”
Fur pelt demand from China then drove trapped fur prices up, temporarily, in the first decades of the 21st century, but not nearly to the levels of the late 20th century, and that boom was also short-lived.
By 2019 the major question about the Chinese fur trade was not whether it was in decline, but rather about how steep the fall was.