Peter Peters says he is not a collector.
Yet the president of a shrinking P.E.I. Fur Breeders Association says he still has two years supply of mink pelts in freezers while waiting for fur prices to rebound.
“I figured out it would take two years to restore the market,” Peters said in a recent telephone interview with the Journal Pioneer, before adding he had that figured out in 2014 and, four years later, prices still haven’t bounced back.
Peters said there were 13 fur breeders in the association in 2013, when prices were good. Then they crashed.
This year the number of fur producers is down to three, and he admits it could sink lower if conditions don’t soon improve.
Prior to 2013, the mink industry had enjoyed about 15 consecutive good years.
“In 2013 they paid way too much money for mink. When the buyers went home, they could not sell the garments. They were too expensive; they overdid it,” said Peters.
Unable to sell the furs, buyers had little interest in new inventory the following year, prompting the price to drop below the cost of production.
Because of past successes, Peters said many mink breeders were applying their profits towards building more barns and expanding their operations. He said many got caught in the crash. Production costs were suddenly higher than the selling point.
“If you don’t have much equity in your company, the bank is going to pull the plug, and that is what happened everywhere,” he assessed. “When mink is bringing in $20 or $30, and it costs $50 to raise them, you can only do that for so long.”
Production in P.E.I has gone from around 180,000 mink in 2013 to around 45,000 currently.
Nova Scotia producers will raise around 500,000 mink this year compared to two million five years ago.
Unless market conditions improve soon, Peters worries some of the infrastructure that supports the industry, including pelting facilities and feed kitchens, will close.
“When mink is bringing in $20 or $30, and it costs $50 to raise them, you can only do that for so long.”
-Peter Peters, president of P.E.I. Fur Breeders Association
Bankrupt mink farm
The consequences of that price crash have been felt by a Prince County mink producer.
A court-appointed receiver for a Prince Edward Island mink farm that filed bankruptcy last March has advertised some of the company’s assets for sale by tender.
The Silver Hill Fur Farm sale offer includes more than 60 aces of land; 29 mink barns with a combined footprint of about 262,800 square feet; processing, freezer and storage buildings; equipment; and more than 80,000 cages.
The Journal Pioneer attempted to reach Casey Gavin of Seacow Pond, the company’s owner, but he could not be reached for comment.
The Prince Edward Island government is one of the creditors, having loaned Silver Hill Fur Farm $4 million in 2014 to expand its operation in Haliburton, near O’Leary. The Haliburton operation, however, is not included in the advertised sale.
Any bids received will be opened on Feb. 20.