Nova Scotia mink industry devastated by low demand, price decline
In 2014, Nova Scotia's mink industry was worth $140 million to the province's economy
The sheen has worn off mink, at least for the time being.
Just two years ago the industry was worth $140 million to Nova Scotia's economy.
Black pelts were selling between $110 and $130 each, largely due to the high demand from Russia and China.
Matt Moses, a mink farmer and a member of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association says this year everything is in a downward spiral.
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"The price declined steadily last year. The provincial range was somewhere around $45 to $50 [a pelt], which was very close to our provincial cost of production; it was a break even year. Now we have dipped $30 to $40 below that, the losses are too significant to bear for the industry," said Moses.
There are estimates that 350 mink farm workers have been laid off. Many have only ever worked in this field, which means they have few transferable skills when looking for new jobs.
"These people have been highly trained to work in our industry, we are fearful if we lose them it may be difficult to develop that skilled workforce moving forward," said Moses.
Lack of demand
The blame for the downturn is an enormous glut of mink pelts on the open market caused by a lack of demand from the two largest markets — China and Russia.
Warmer than normal winters in China are partially to blame, but the Asian economic powerhouse has doubled its own mink production. All have added up to prices plummeting in North America.
It's not only the mink industry being hit hard; all fur farming is feeling the pinch.
At the first large North American Fur Auction of the year, few lots sold out.
The only items that sold at 100 per cent were red fox and the better western coyotes, which are used in the trim market for jackets.
25% of workers laid off
All of this is devastating southwest Nova Scotia, where the mink industry is the largest employer.
Roger Mullen, the sales manager at the Dodge dealership in St. Bernard said this impacts everyone in the region.
"For this area it's everything, 60 to 70 per cent of the economy for this area, the whole county it might be 25 to 30 per cent. It's as big as the fishing industry — 1,000 to 1,200 direct jobs and I don't know how many indirect jobs," he said.
The provincial government and the industry itself have chipped in millions to keep the mink farms afloat. But so far, with more than a quarter of the industry's workers laid off in a region that is already struggling with employment, that money doesn't appear to be working.