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Finnish fur industry finds few buyers as Chinese, Russian markets shrink

Knock-on effects of the Covid pandemic as well as the war in Ukraine have caused financial difficulties for the sector. 

Minkki häkissä.
Nationally, the number of fur farms has been steadily declining since the 1990s. Image: Claus Rasmussen / EPA
Yle News

The Finnish fur industry is experiencing a slowdown in sales. An online auction by Finnish auction house Saga Furs in March saw only a fifth of mink pelts and just under 40 percent of fox pelts find buyers.

China, which has been an important fur market in recent years, has seen consumer activity hit by pandemic lockdowns in key cities. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent economic sanctions put paid to the chances of Russian buyers stepping in to fill the void, according to Saga Furs board chair Jari Isosaari.

China and Korea usually account for 80 percent of auction sales. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has taken Russia out of the auction as well.

The executive director of the Finnish Fur Farmers' Association (Fifur), Marja Tiura, said the situation is unprecedented. Tiura said she believes this year will see an increase in the number of farms closing down, as many find themselves in serious financial trouble.

Nationally, the number of fur farms has been steadily declining since the 1990s.

Public support for the industry is low, as a November 2021 survey by Taloustutkimus showed that 71 percent of Finns oppose fur farming in its current form. Its public image has also been hit by repeated exposés of inhumane conditions at fur farms.

According to Tiura, the total closure of farms and the constant testing of animals and workers over the pandemic has been tough. The war in Ukraine has led to further difficulties for the sector, as energy, fuel and feed prices soar. This has caused a significant increase in costs. It’s impossible to say how long the situation will last, but it will probably not pass quickly, she said.

The next pelt auction is in June, but there are fears some farms will not be able to survive until then.

According to Tiura, the current situation affects the agricultural sector as a whole, as fertiliser and energy prices have increased. Direct support from the state would be needed to help overcome the current difficulties, added Tiura, a former National Coalition Party MP.

Meanwhile, Isosaari of Saga Furs said he believed that China will probably increase its buys again at the company's June auction.

“For two years I have been saying that the situation is unlikely to get any worse, but since the war started, I’m no longer sure. I certainly hope it won't get any worse," said Isosaari.

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