Fur sales plummet due to warm weather in Asia

Warm weather in Asia this winter has meant cooling demand for Canadian fur products.

Retail sales down 30 per cent or more in China

Merv Wiseman says it was tough year for fur producers in the provinces. (CBC)

Warm weather in Asia this winter has meant cooling demand for Canadian fur products, says a Newfoundland and Labrador producer. 

China is the biggest market for fur products, but temperatures there soared over the past few months.

"It's one of the warmest winters on record there," said Merv Wiseman, vice president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Fur Breeders Association.

"As a consequence, retail sales for fur has been down as much as 30 per cent, and even more in other parts of China." 

That's a tough blow for producers. Fur markets have been strong, so producers were expecting a good year.

"The fur in all species, mink and fox and wild furs, has just been going up and up and up over the last five or six years," said Wiseman, "and it's really been driven by the Chinese economy and the Chinese appetite and it's been ever-increasing."

Market went flat during winter

Projections last fall predicted even higher demand this year. However, in December and January the Chinese market went flat.

The same thing happened in Korea and Japan due to warm weather. In Russia — a huge consumer of long-haired fur — it was the same story and prices went down accordingly.

Wiseman runs a fox farm in Placentia Bay. He's felt the sting of plummeting sales and low prices.

"In some cases, sales of certain colours of fox fur has been down as much as 70 per cent," said Wiseman. "When anything goes down 70 per cent, that's quite an impact."

It means producers will have to be careful as they head into next season, according to Wiseman.

"You won't see too many producers increasing inventory, that's for sure. I think a very cautious approach now and just keep an eye on where we are with production levels." he said.

On the bright side, Wiseman doesn't think producers face any long term problems with sales and markets.

"I think most people believe that this is just a glitch in the system, that it's not a long-term issue associated with overall poor market conditions and fashion."