Standing on the successes of its booming trapping industry, NWT’s fur program is expanding to include muskox pelts as a new pilot project of the department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
ITI Minister David Ramsay announced last Wednesday that the department will be purchasing muskox hides from hunters to sell to leather and qiviut producers in southern Canada and abroad.
The muskox pilot adds to the existing Hide and Fur Procurement Program, which gives moose and caribou hide tanners a market to sell their finished hides. Those hides are then sold back to NWT craftspeople at the same price. The same is done for seal skin and beaver pelts.
The department is now planning to further expand the program to include more species of fur to be used by the territory’s traditional arts and crafts sector, and intends to increase the price of seal up from its current value of $55 per pelt.
“Here in the NWT we cannot keep up with the demand from our arts and crafts sector,” Ramsay said. “It is estimated that fur bought and sold through this program last year generated almost $350,000 for craft producers in the NWT. Their beautiful creations promote our cultural diversity and are part of our socially responsible and environmentally sustainable economic development strategy.”
Ramsay delivered the news as part of his update on the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program, which he called “the envy of the Canadian trapping industry” despite its small-scale approach.
The program provides NWT trappers with access to an international auction market, while allowing trappers to maximize their earnings with training on best trapping practices and pelt preparation.
Last year’s trapping season yielded the highest returns the territory had seen in over 30 years, with sales exceeding $2.7 million. About 80 per cent of that went to China, which currently leads the world in fur garment manufacturing.
Ramsay said demand is expected to stay strong this year, due to the growing base of hardworking trappers.
“Last year a small amount of marten branded with the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur label fetched an astronomical $1,300 per pelt. But this type of success would not be attainable if trappers did not first learn and invest the time in properly handling and preparing their fur,” he said.
“Our trappers are the very best in their trade, and as a result, so is the fur they ship to market.”