Fur industry in crisis over Russia's mild weather

Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:00am EST
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By James Kilner

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's fur industry is awash with chat about the crisis -- the crisis of another mild winter cutting demand for the coats considered part of its heritage.

This year total fur sales in Russia -- mainly coats -- will halve to around $2.5 billion and 2009 will remain tough, Sergei Stolbov, head of the Russian Fur Union, said.

"It's a complex situation for the fur business because as well as the financial crisis we also have to deal with worsening weather conditions," he said during an interview in his windowless office in central Moscow.

Russia has been hit badly by a global economic crisis and many bankers believe a 10-year boom that drove soaring consumption is about to stall.

But for the fur industry, milder winters are the problem.

Moscow temperatures often have hovered above 5 degrees Centigrade (41 Fahrenheit) in the first 10 days of December compared to a historical average of about minus 5 degrees, though in Siberia freezing temperatures are still the norm.

"When people are not cold they don't need a fur coat," Stolbov said. Now that spare cash is tight and the winter mild, fur coats have dropped off people's shopping lists.

Temperatures have risen globally, a change some scientists blame on greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.   Continued...