Q + A: How the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program Helps Trappers

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As the world fur market heads into auction season, Northwest Territories (NWT) trappers are poised to make their mark thanks to the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur program (GMVF).

The program gives NWT harvesters single-window access to international auctions and venues through which their furs are sold to the fashion industry.  NWT-harvested wild fur is world renowned and marketed exclusively under the GNWT- supported Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand.

Last month, the NWT's world-class wild furs and GMVF Brand were represented at the China Fur & Leather Products Fair in Beijing. We chatted with ITI's Fur Marketing Coordinator Francois Rossouw about what this kind of event is designed to achieve and how the GMVF program helps trappers.

Q: What was the Beijing tradeshow all about?

A: It’s a promotional event designed to meet clients and demonstrate the high quality furs our trappers prepare, and the garments they can create.  It’s also a gear-up for the largest fur auction of the year — the Fur Harvesters Auction Helsinki event — where we make most of our sales each year.

Q: How did it go?

A: It was successful. We were able to gain interest from some new clients in the Chinese and Russian markets — some of the largest consumers of fur products — and people we believe will come through with some purchases in Helsinki.

Q: How does the GMVF play into these kinds of events?

A: The GMVF serves a few functions. First and foremost, we connect NWT trappers to markets that would be difficult – if not impossible - for them to access otherwise.  We coordinate the logistics and marketing under the singular GMVF brand.  Working with ENR’s wildlife officers, we also ensure that our harvesters know how to prepare their furs to receive maximum returns at auction.

Q: How else does the GMVF help trappers?

A: Our trappers are among the best in the world – and their product is also now recognized as such. That means strong returns. We make sure they get paid immediately. When they work through the GMVF, they receive a guaranteed price for their furs, which we pay out immediately. If they sell for more when they go to auction, they get the difference back.  From this stock, traditional artists are also provided fur pieces at-cost to create traditional arts. For new entrants, we put on workshops to help them learn the best techniques to prepare and dress their furs. 

Q: How much financial benefit is realized?

A: Last year, roughly $2 million in revenues was generated by the GMVF program. It’s a vital source of revenue for those in our most remote communities, and helps encourage participation in traditional activities, and improves community wellness. It’s a very good investment.