THE FUR FLIES AT HONG KONG'S AUCTION

THE FUR FLIES AT HONG KONG'S AUCTION

There isn't much demand for fur coats in subtropical Hong Kong, but the colony is the world's leading fur exporter.

The British colony's latest auction of skins indicates that position won't be eroded soon.A two-day session last week saw HK$85 million (US$11 million) spent for pelts, a jump of 70 percent over the last sale and much higher than the HK$66 million expected by organizers.

Under the hammer were 400,000 mink pelts and 25,000 fox pelts. The lots included Scandinavian pelts for the first time, though not all of these sold.

The most popular items were blue and silver fox, whose prices went to HK$400 and HK$1,200 respectively, according to Glenn Lam, the sale organizer.

Prices for raw mink were down about 30 percent from last year's highs, though above levels at a London sale in January. Buyers attribute the dip to the October stock market rout and subsequent jitters about disposable income in the West.

Hong Kong is the world's largest fur skin exporter by value. In the first 11 months of last year, exports earned HK$3.4 billion. That compares with HK$2.5 billion for all of 1986 and HK$1.8 billion for 1985.

Japan is the No. 1 market, taking nearly 66 percent of Hong Kong's fur output, followed by the United States (26 percent) and European Community countries (4 percent).

In the calendar year through last November, American buyers imported HK$888 million in Hong Kong furs.

Hong Kong buys more than 8 million mink and fox pelts a year, primarily

from Scandinavia - 25 percent of its total output - the Soviet Union, the United States and Australia.

China is pushing its skin exports to Hong Kong, something Mr. Lam says will offer buyers a wider choice and the benefits of some cheaper offshore production at Chinese factories.

The average price for Chinese male raw mink was HK$220 and for female pelts HK$155.

Hong Kong's furriers announced late last year that they intend to redouble efforts to sell into North America, because of the cold weather and the vastness of those markets.

The cost of making a full-length mink coat in Hong Kong is about US$300, against US$1,000 in the United States, according to Henry Sun, chairman of the local Federation of Fur Manufacturers and Dealers.