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Finnish fur farmers fear "catastrophe" as coronavirus postpones spring auction

Auction firm Saga Furs said official travel restrictions and airline changes have grounded many of its customers.

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File photo of furs for sale. Image: Yle/Sofi Nordmyr

Finnish fur farmers are bracing for the worst after auction firm Saga Furs said Friday that it intends to postpone its international spring auction by one month to April because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The firm said that most of its customers will not be able to travel in March, when the auction is usually held, because of official travel restrictions and other changes made by airlines since the spread of the disease.

Chair of Ranniko fur farmers’ association Arto Isopahkala described the decision to defer the auction as a catastrophe to members. He said that they are also concerned about whether or not the spread of the disease will ease in the next few weeks.

"It’s a horrible situation for Finnish fur farmers. Low prices have continued for so long that we are living from hand to mouth as it is," Isopahkala commented.

The majority of Finland’s fur farming is concentrated on the west coast.

According to Isopahkala, producers need a continuous source of income to prepare for the new season. Now they do not know what price levels they'll be dealing with and what kind of fur they should aim to produce for the next season.

Animal feed producers also affected

Producers in the industry expect the price of mink to rise given a decline in production after a period of over-supply. However trade drives the price of the luxury commodity.

The auction usually takes place during the mating season so that farmers can get a sense of what products they should produce for the next season. They can also see what products will be in demand.

The current situation will also affect animal feed producers, who will also need to begin storing the ingredients needed for different kinds of animal feed. These producers often depend on the spring auction to help them determine what to store.

Isopahkala said that since the decision to defer the auction was announced on Friday, his phone has been constantly ringing. He explained that producers would have preferred to see measures taken to safeguard the auction, rather than to postpone it.

"Faith in the auction is so strong that the it would probably have worked online as well," he concluded.

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