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The Fur Trade Today - 11/03/06

Published 11/06/06

Skin trade could wipe out India’s tigers

Tigers in India, which contains half of the world’s surviving population, face extinction unless an illicit skin trade run by criminal gangs between the subcontinent and Tibet is brought under control, campaigners said yesterday.

In a report the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Wildlife Protection Society of India said the Himalayan plateau had become a massive bazaar for Indian tiger skins. Pelts are sold for £10,000 each and it has become fashionable for them to be used in luxury clothes and accessories.

Source: The Guardian, 09/28/06


Fur is alive on the catwalk

Here in Milan, it has been a week of giddy highs and awful, plummeting lows. Shall we get the highs out of the way first?

Having grown tired over the past couple of weeks of endless parades of olive, grey and black, the Prada show on Tuesday evening was a breath of fresh air: little skirts and shorts (you simply have to wear shorts with cuffs next summer) and tunics, all fashioned out of duchesse satin, and in pillarbox red, purple and emerald. ... But ...You knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you? The sea change in my week happened at the Burberry show, which I was just beginning to enjoy, with its new and pretty bell-shaped sleeves, a silver shirt dress and a beautiful linen trouser suit, when the catwalk was stormed by three young women from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, bearing “Fur scum” banners. They were quickly wrestled to the floor by what I thought were particularly heavy handed bouncers.

Source: Daily Mail, 10/02/06


Business reportedly has been developing nicely in Russia and China, particularly in the northern regions that already have turned cold. Both of these markets have been growing rapidly in line with their burgeoning economies and consumers’ disposable income. Leading industry sources have been predicting that demand from these markets will outpace the supply of mink and some other furs in the foreseeable future. Which would send skin prices even higher than the records that were reached this year. Some expect enough pressure for garments to put a strain on production facilities in the next month or so, which could impact on deliveries to U.S. vendors and retailers later this year.

Meanwhile, skin supplies — mink in particular — are described as very low, both at the manufacturing level and in the open market. So low, in fact, that many purchases at the recent auctions in Copenhagen and Helsinki are understood to have already been paid for and cleared because of immediate need. According to dealers and brokers, virtually all of the current demand for skins is coming from Russian and Chinese accounts and much of that demand is expected to go unsatisfied. By some estimates, if this year’s world mink supply were 8 million more than were actually produced, that too would have been snapped up in the next two months. For this reason, market veterans are predicting shortages that could impact on the ability of the big Chinese manufacturers to fill special orders and reorders placed at the height of the retail season.

In addition, Chinese dressing plants, which now process the bulk of the world’s pelts, are said to be backed up and unable to handle simple dressing in less than four weeks. Even longer for special treatments such as shearing, plucking, dyeing and printing. But the Chinese are still expanding their processing facilities, so such bottlenecks may soon be a thing of the past. As to the production of mink, that too is reported to be increasing rapidly in China. There are no official figures regarding Chinese mink production, now estimated at about 8 million a year, second only to Denmark and triple that of the U.S. Moreover, the farms are described as closer to Western operations and using breeding stock purchased from better ranches in North America and Europe, which has led to a much improved product than what they formerly raised.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/02/06


This month’s MEXA has signed up 104 exhibitors from 16 countries and more are expected before the doors open. The general theme is Season of Fur, which is to be adopted by the exhibitors. A highlight will be a seminar on karakul lamb led by Michael Hasse, head of the fur school in St. Petersburg, and participants are advised to register early. One of the features of the fashion gala will be the presentation of Russian designer Irina Krutikova’s latest collection. It all takes place in Hall 3 of Moscow’s Expocenter Fairgrounds.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/02/06


Hunting Trap in Northeast Snares Kitten

The Washington Humane Society is trying to find out who set the steel hunting trap by the Brentwood Postal Facility in Northeast D.C. that ensnared a 6-month-old orange Tabby cat.

The cat, nicknamed “Trapper,” suffered a crushed front leg and veterinarians aren’t sure if Trapper is out of the woods just yet. He could have nerve or ligament damage or, a worst-case scenario, amputation.

Source: NBC4, 10/03/06


Viv’s Fur Refusal, Westwood goes pelt free

Paris — Vivienne Westwood may not have set Leonard Peltier free just yet, but she has liberated herself from using fur in her collections.

The punk-rooted British designer announced today through The Humane Society of the United States that she will no longer use any fur in her future clothing lines. “It wasn’t a hard decision to make,” Westwood said backstage at her show this morning. “It’s just what you should do.”

Source: Fashion Week Daily, 10/03/06


At this point, the factories are said to be quoting six weeks for delivery of new orders, but this is expected to lengthen as Chinese and Russian sales gain momentum and retailers need to replenish their stocks. In addition, qualified sources report that skin supplies are dwindling and may not last until fresh goods from this year’s crop are available. Although the next auction season doesn’t start until December, some new mink will be available in November direct from farms that use melatonin implants or other procedures to hasten the animals’ development. However, there have been reports that problems have been encountered with some of these pelts, such as hair loss in the dressing process. According to knowledgeable sources, this may be due to imprecise application of the treatments, including timing, which is said to be sensitive.

As a result, the word is out that manufacturers would be wise to avoid buying such mink — particularly from Chinese farms — unless prior experience with the farm has been satisfactory. The implant procedure has been around for more than a decade and it is estimated to be in use by about 40% of North American ranches, as well as extensively in Europe. Among its benefits are that, by speeding the furring process, the mink can be pelted a month earlier than normal, thus saving a month’s worth of feeding and other care. In addition, weather conditions are more favorable for pelting in early November than in December, which is an important factor in the northern regions.

While most have learned to handle the procedure properly, newer users without experience — among them the rapidly expanding Chinese farms — may be producing the questionable pelts. Some American importers already have been advised by their agents to avoid placing orders at this time of the year with Hong Kong manufacturers whose factories work with Chinese mink that are pelted early. Aside from hair loss in the dressing process, the faulty pelts reportedly may also shed after they are manufactured into garments, which raises the specter of claims being made by retailers against their vendors and by consumers against their retailers or cleaners. Although shedding is quite common in less expensive furs, like rabbit — and consumers have been forewarned to expect it — this would not be acceptable in mink, which is known for its durability.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/09/06


As usual, inconsistent weather was blamed for September’s lackluster performance, although several stores did manage to beat last year’s figures. Two felt they had gone ahead mainly because last year’s month was so bad, one of them in the face of a high unemployment rate in his area. The latter operates in a region whose economy is heavily dependent on the American automobile industry, which has not been faring well lately. Not only have many thousands of workers and middle-management people lost their jobs and not spending as freely as before, but top-earning executives also have been pulling in their horns in anticipation.

Such concerns are further heightened this year because of the tight supply of mink and the distinct possibility of shortages. With deliveries from China already at six weeks, or late-November, the question a retailer with a special order or reorder may ask a month from now is: What kind of delivery can I expect? The answer could well be post-December, which could easily nullify his sale, especially if the purchase is intended as a holiday gift. In previous years under similar circumstances, some Western vendors and retailers got their CD’s back because they were outbid for their goods by Chinese or Russian accounts.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/09/06


Activity in the New York market, or what’s left of it, was sparse last week. Garment manufacturers reported a little reorder activity, stores looking to fill in a few holes, but nothing substantial. Here and there, a special order that could be filled from stock with modifications that could be handled locally. At the dealing level, designer houses gearing up for their fall, 2007, collections to be shown next February, were shopping for skins to be used as trims. Designers, or their representatives were going around with fabric swatches and placing small orders for dyed skins, including karakul, mink, fox and sable. But, basically, the New York market - once the biggest fur market in the world - is still shrinking. Only a handful of manufacturers still producing on their own premises and not as many independent contracting shops producing for others. Many of the latter, or their workers, have returned to Greece, where the concentration is on supplying the very active Russian market and the employment rate is understandably higher.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/09/06


The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that greatly enhances the Animal Enterprise Protection Act by putting more teeth into it and broadening it to cover the entire fur trade. The measure, S. 3880, introduced by Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, criminalizes at the federal level actions or threats against individuals involved in animal enterprises, including their family members, spouses or intimate partners. It also expands such crime to include conspiracies and attempts and sharply increases monetary and criminal penalties. The bill modifies the definition of “animal enterprise” to include (1) an enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit or educational purposes and (2) an animal shelter, pet store, breeder or furrier. The measure also provides that expressive conduct, including picketing or other peaceful demonstration protected by the First Amendment, is not prohibited by this act. A similar bill, H.R. 4239, was introduced in the House by Rep. Thomas E. Petri of Wisconsin and is expected to be acted on when Congress reconvenes after Election Day, Nov.7.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/09/06


Wildlife group to sue over traps, upset over box trap approval by Wildlife Commission

A Boulder-based wildlife group says it’s filing a lawsuit to reverse a state commission’s approval of using box traps to capture marten and minks in Colorado. Sinapu says it filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court claiming the Colorado Wildlife Commission’s decision violates a state ban on trapping wildlife. In July, the Wildlife Commission approved a request from the Colorado Trappers Association to use box traps to catch marten and minks. The animals are members of the weasel family and are valued for their fur. Voters approved a ban in 1996 on using leg-hold or body-gripping traps on wildlife. it did not specifically mention box traps, which are usually used to capture and relocate animals.

Sources: KJCT8, 10/11/06
Sinapu and Forest Guardians press release, 10/11/06


Suit seeks to end trapping

A national animal rights organization filed suit Thursday against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife alleging that the state is failing to protect bald eagles and Canada lynx from being caught and killed by trappers.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, seeks a court order to end any trapping that could inadvertently capture, injure or kill eagles, Canada lynx or gray wolves, all of which are protected from harm under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Source: Bangor Daily News, 10/13/06


World production of ranched mink reached a new high this year, as breeders in almost all the producing countries were encouraged by steadily rising pelt prices to increase their herds. According to the annual computations by Oslo Fur Auctions, the current crop will amount to slightly over 44.6 million, a gain of 11% over the 2005 crop that was marketed this year, which also had represented a new high. At the same time, the compilations indicated that world production of ranched foxes rose 7.2% to a total of 7 million, which also represented a new high. In both cases, the increases were mainly due to the steady growth of fur farming in China in general and that country’s sharp rise this year in particular.

In the past couple of years, however, as their domestic market developed, the Chinese trade recognized a need to develop a better home-grown mink to lessen their dependency on Western pelts. Four years ago, Chinese ranches were producing about four million pelts a year, mostly considered low-grade by Western standards and all consumed domestically or exported as low-priced promotional products. In the past few years, however, many of those farmers have been bringing in high-quality breeding stock from North America and Europe and improving their products. They also have been upgrading their feeding and other procedures and their mink is expected soon to be competitive in quality with Western pelts.

China has now leap-frogged into second place behind Denmark, the world’s largest mink producer, and, at the rate it has been growing, can easily take the number one spot in two years. At this point, its crop is entirely consumed by Chinese manufacturers producing both for export and the domestic market. At the same time, it is still the largest buyer of mink in the international market. However, continued growth of its own ranching industry — unless consumption keeps pace — can easily lead to less need for mink from outside sources. This is another factor being considered by aging North American and European fur farmers, i.e. the threat of competition from Chinese producers able to furnish similar mink at lower prices because of their lower labor and other costs. While this threat may be years away from materializing — if indeed it ever does — it is a factor to be considered in the planning by Western ranchers.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/16/06


A breakdown of the latest figures shows Scandinavian mink production rose 5% this year to a total of 17.7 million. Denmark’s 13.5 million share was up 4.6%, while Finland’s edged up 2.6% at 2 million, Sweden’s rose 7% to 1.5 million, Norway’s advanced 23% to 530,000 and Iceland’s rose 7% to 160,000. Colorwise, Scandinavian production of blacks rose 5% to 2.2 million; browns went up 7% to 3.2 million; demi-wild types up 5% to 4.4 million; mahogany down 11% at 2.3 million, and whites up 42% at 1.9 million.

China’s estimated production this year was approximately 10 million mink, which would represent a 25% increase over last year’s estimate. That also was the growth rate for the previous three years. Assuming Chinese farms continue to expand at the same rate, next year’s crop would be 12.5 million and the following year’s close to 16 million. Holland, the third-largest mink producer, increased its crop 12% to 3.7 million. Among the other major producers, the U.S. was next with 2.9 million, up 5.5%; Poland 2.2 million, up 2.2%; Russia 2.1 million, up 5%; Canada 2 million, up 11%, and the Baltic States 1.4 million, up12%.

China’s production of ranched foxes also increased sharply this year, according to the Oslo calculations. It surpassed Finland as the largest fox producer three years ago and has continued to grow. This year’s crop is estimated at 4 million, up 14% from last year. There is no breakdown by color categories, as there are for Scandinavian foxes. Finland, which accounts for 85% of the Scandinavian crop, produced 2.2 million this year, an increase of 2.3%. Norway was a distant second with 300,000, down 13%. The blues accounted for 1.6 million of the Finnish crop, a gain of 4%, while Norway’s blue production declined 26% to 100,000. Scandinavian silvers, mostly Norwegian, increased 5% to 179,000, while blue frost, mostly Finnish, increased 19% to 340,000.

Ranched fox production elsewhere was largely unchanged or below a year ago. Poland and Russia were both down about 10% at 150,000 and 140,000, respectively, and the Baltic States were unchanged at 100,000. Also unchanged were Canada at 35,000; the U.S. at 20,000; Argentina at 20,000, and Holland at 10,000.

In the meantime, although this year’s mink crop has increased, there are those who believe it may not be enough to satisfy next year’s anticipated demand based on the growing markets — or that this year’s demand will even be met. The current year’s supply has been completely sold at the auction level and merchants report the supply of mink skins in the open market is extremely low. Clearances at the auction houses have been described as excellent and dealers/brokers are reporting continuing inquiries for goods, mainly from the Far East and Russia. Those retail markets have now become active and reportedly beginning to put pressure on Hong Kong manufacturers.

Estimates by qualified sources are that the mink that was marketed this year could be short by as much as 8 million pelts in terms of what could be consumed in the upcoming season. Those estimates are based on the current Chinese and Russian demands and projections for the year ahead. If they are correct, it would mean that this year’s mink crop would still fall short of next year’s market needs, causing normal supply/demand forces to keep propelling skin prices higher in the coming auction season.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/16/06


A collection of knitted furs and leathers created by Canadian manufacturer Paula Lishman was the featured attraction at a Toronto art gallery for more than two weeks. The exhibition, titled “From The Maritimes to The Mountains,” highlighted one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces inspired by northern landscapes, rugged mountains, rough seas and painted prairies.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/16/06


Austria: Animal rights activists to intensify anti-fur campaign

A concerted effort by animal rights campaigners in spreading anti-fur message had the effect that fur shops began to close down and the fur trade decreased dramatically. Fur farming became illegal in Austria after the last fur farm was closed in November 1998.

In 2000, the fur industry began to fight back due to resurgence in popularity of fur as more general clothes stores began to sell fur, hidden as accessories and spruce. A nationwide campaign began against clothing chains which were selling the most fur.

‘Kleider Bauer’, a specifically Austrian chain with 50 outlets in financial trouble, changed their mind and stopped fur sales. The decision by Peek & Cloppenburg (P&C) of finally agreeing to stop selling fur by 2007 appears to have turned a trickle into a full scale rout of the fur industry in Austria.

Source: Fibre2Fashion.com, 10/20/06


German Politicians Ban Import of Seal Products

Germany’s parliament has passed a motion banning the import of seal products and sets as a larger goal an EU-wide ban. Lawmkers said the methods used to kill seals were brutal. The vote for the ban on Thursday night was unanimous and eliminates the German market from the commercial seal trade. Many German parliamentarians also now want to see a ban on seal products and have drafted a proposal for a ban European-wide ban.

Source: Deutsche Welle, 10/21/06


2007 Fur Fairs

We have already begun to receive inquiries as to the dates of next year’s international fur fairs, so we have assembled the schedule as it now stands for the convenience of those who like to plan early. As of presstime, the following dates have been set:

Beijing Fur Fair (Beijing): January 16–19.
Hong Kong International Fur Fair (Hong Kong): February 25–Mar. 1.
Fur & Fashion Frankfurt (Frankfurt): March 22–25.
MiFur (Milan): March 14–18.
North American Fur & Fashion Expo (Montreal): April 29–May 2.
Greek Fur Fair (Kastoria): March 6–9.
MEXA (Moscow — trade only): May 18–20.
MEXA (Moscow — trade and public): October 5–7.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/23/06


Reports late last week that China had suddenly halted imports of fur skins could not be confirmed at presstime. Informed trade sources believed it was a temporary curtailment connected to pollution problems at dressing plants, as well as suspected smuggling to avoid customs duties. The reports were that dressers were being denied import permits because their effluents were polluting the local waters. China is understood to have no regulations in that respect. As to the customs situation, there have long been reports of widespread smuggling and the government now is said to be trying to get a better handle on it. China reportedly is studying new rules to close or tighten the loopholes.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/23/06


Couple continues to call for trapping bylaw

A local couple is refusing to give up their fight to have the Township create a bylaw requiring trappers to notify their neighbours.

“You have to put up a sign if you put pesticide on your lawn, but you don’t have to let anyone know if you’ve set traps on your property,” Nancy Heptinstall told council members on Monday.

She and Craig Pestell lost their eight-month-old cocker spaniel Daisy last November after the puppy was caught in a trap on their neighbour’s property.

Source: www.mykawatha.com, 10/25/06


Conflicting reports continued to circulate last week concerning restrictions on the importation of many raw materials into China, including fur and leather skins for processing and manufacture. Considering China’s current preeminence in the international fur trade and the powerful impact its purchases can have on supplies and prices, the mere thought of any disruption of the movement of goods into that country tends to send shivers through those connected with the primary markets around the world. Just as China’s voracious appetite for furs has helped to propel skin prices to record highs this year, the fear is that a sudden downshift could bring a collapse, as well as a cutoff of the supply of fur garments for much of the world.

Efforts to obtain official information from the Chinese government have been unsuccessful so far, but usually well-informed trade sources describe a potentially serious situation. They say it stems from the country’s gigantic — and still growing — pollution problems surrounding the processing of many materials, including furs. At the same time, the belief is that whatever action the government may be taking may also be an attempt to eliminate reported widespread smuggling of goods to avoid heavy import duties. China levies duties on virtually all imports, including materials to be manufactured into products for export, so smuggling has become a major industry of its own. And, given the size and porousness of the country’s borders and the susceptibility of customs officials to bribery, not easy to eliminate or even contain.

There were reports that trade delegations from several countries are visiting China in hopes of heading off any rash moves that would impact heavily on the trade. They are said to be looking to negotiate some breathing room while the government puts in place whatever mechanisms it thinks may help solve its problems, such as giving processing plants a specified period of time to install acceptable anti-pollution systems before shutting them down. Western members of the trade who have seen some of those facilities concede they would not take issue with the government’s position. In fact, there also are reports of dressing and dyeing facilities being considered elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

The art of evading duties is as old as customs regulations and duties themselves and the belief is that nowhere else in the world is it as rampant as it is in China, where it is estimated to be used in connection with some 1,500 categories — raw furs probably among the smallest of them. While there are no official figures as to what percentage of China’s huge fur intake comes in through other than legal channels, estimates by qualified sources are that the vast majority — perhaps more than 75% — has been circumventing the customs route. China began issuing permits to Hong Kong manufacturers to send skins and machinery duty-free to their factories on the mainland about 15 years ago. This is what is believed to have opened the floodgates for skins for which no papers were issued. The bulk of the finished products which, under the permits were supposed to be shipped back to Hong Kong, instead were said to be consumed domestically or exported.

The first signs that Chinese authorities were aware of some ‘customs irregularities’ appeared about two years ago, when a shipment of foxes reportedly was intercepted. According to reports at that time, the pelts were not accompanied by the required documents and were confiscated. There were no official comments about that situation, but trade reports about it had a depressing effect on bluefox prices at the ensuing Finnish sale.

According to the latest reports, Chinese customs has stopped issuing such permits since the end of September and also is not renewing any that are expiring. It is understood that a few of the permits already have expired and those plants have stopped operating. The remaining ones will expire Dec. 15 and processors holding them can continue to operate until then. Without the permits, goods going into China will be dutiable at 15% to 18% and carry a value-added tax (VAT) of 17%. For industries whose product costs are 70% to 80% labor and only 20% to 30% material, the taxes on the material are expected to be bearable. This is not the case with furs, however, where the ratio is reversed and the taxes are more substantial. At this point, the new rules do not appear to apply to dressed skins, which would mean that manufacturers who continue to receive dressed skins can keep operating.

Among the questions being asked is, where will those dressed skins come from if not from Chinese plants? There are dressers in the U.S., Canada, Italy, France, Poland and elsewhere that would love to get that business, but whose processing times are much longer and prices much higher than those in China. There also is talk of moving Chinese facilities to other countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka or Vietnam, but this would involve training of new workers and a greater risk of damages until the new plants get up to speed.

The auction company pointed out that the new rules will require payment of an import duty even if the pelts are only brought to China for dressing and taken out of the country after the process is complete. Import duties and VAT total 35% on average, it noted, but as the pelts are taken out of the country, the refund on these duties and tax is 13% at a maximum. “The majority of pelts produced worldwide are taken to China for dressing because the corresponding capacity exists nowhere else. Therefore, the new import regulations grant a distinct competitive advantage to pelts produced in China,” the company said. It should be noted that China has not only been increasing its production of mink, but also of blue and other foxes and has passed Finland as the world’s largest fox producer. This year’s crop of Chinese foxes is estimated at 4 million and Finland’s at 2.2 million.

As veteran trade observers view it, one thing appears certain: the cost of doing business in China will be going up. Customs duty and VAT may have to be reckoned with — at least to a greater degree than until now — and even if new ways to circumvent them are found they may be more costly, too. Add in higher dressing charges and longer waiting periods for the skins. The situation also could make Chinese mink appear more attractive and, because they are duty-free and more easily available, they might command higher prices.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 10/30/06

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