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Hide expectations: Tariffs drop value of deer hides, but locals still accepting them

By MJohnson
Tom Paper, owner at Wadena Hide & Fur displays an early season deer hide traded in for gloves or other merchandise. The business typically has thousands of deer hides traded in each season. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

For the first time in over 30 years, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association was considering not putting out those orange boxes across the state looking for hide donations.

After announcing the decision to take a year off, the organization made an agreement with a fur buyer last week to continue the program once more. So, yes, you can again expect to see the boxes coming soon.

The MDHA was considering a one-year hiatus from the Hides for Habitat program thanks to tariffs partially causing an oversupply of hides that are no longer going to China. This resulted in a low hide price.

But according to Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, an agreement was reached early Thursday, Oct. 11, with North American Trading, a Wisconsin company, to purchase salted hides from MDHA chapters for a straight price of $3.50 a hide. That's less than half last year's price of about $7.25 a hide, Engwall said, but it's far better than the buyer's initial offer of $3 for salted, 8-foot square hides in perfect condition and $1 a hide for everything else.

"Things aren't great in terms of prices, (but the buyer) realized and we realized that if we really lose this program, even for a year, it could affect it long-term," Engwall said. "He raised his prices to us, so we'll go forward with the program."

MDHA only got wind of the change in China's tanning laws a few weeks ago, when buyers weren't bidding on purchasing the hides for the upcoming deer season, Engwall said. That didn't leave enough time for tanneries to react and create new facilities in countries such as Vietnam or Thailand, Engwall said.

From a private business perspective, Wadena Hide and Fur owner Tom Paper said that the price of hides is certainly down, but that won't stop the business from continuing to trade hides for gloves and other merchandise. "The selling of hides is a part of the global market," Paper said. "The tariffs do have an effect. Until those things are resolved I think the those markets are going to be challenged." The hide market is seeing a down a year, but Paper is confident it will return to normal within the next few quarters. A number of factors were weighed by the MDHA in making the decision, according to a news release from the MDHA, including:

• A decision by China to change the regulation regarding importing deer hides to their country.

• As of August, China no longer allows tanning of hides in the country, which did not allow enough time for tanneries to react and create new facilities in countries such as Vietnam.

• There is an oversupply of tanned hides from last year in the market.

• China has imposed a 25 percent tariff on deer hides entering the country.

The MDHA said fur buyers have stated that they expect everything to return to normal for the 2019 season. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association Hides for Habitat program is a flagship program of MDHA and since its inception in 1985 has generated nearly $5.23 million and 865,000 hides to help fund statewide habitat projects. This program works because of hunters who donate their hides to the orange MDHA logo collection boxes around the state and because of dedicated chapters that volunteer time to support the program. As Wadena Hide and Fur also deals in purchasing metals, they are also seeing lower prices in those markets from tariffs. "Metals have been depressed most of the summer," Paper said. That being said he remains positive that commodity prices will rebound. "In all businesses there are good years and bad years," Paper said. His business is no stranger to pricing changes as its been accepting those commodities since 1946

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