Let’s talk about China, Inc.. If you’ve bought much low- to medium-priced fishing tackle lately, chances are it was made in China. That country’s manufacturing capacity and sophistication have grown enormously in recent years, which combined with relatively cheap, skilled labor made it a logical source for many global tackle brands. But now that appears to be changing.
Not that Chinese-made tackle is about to disappear. It’s a very big industry there, and the Chinese fishing-trade expo--called “China Fish”--is a huge international deal.
But consider this current headline from the European fishing-trade journal Angling International: “Giants Accelerate Move out of China.” Rapala, for example, is moving some lure manufacturing along with some VMC hook operations from China to Batam, Indonesia.
The same magazine report quotes Jussi Ristimaki, Rapala’s CFO, as saying, “The whole of China is changing. It was the place to go for cheap production, but now the country is developing, the minimum wage is going up, and the currency is getting stronger and stronger. There is a saying now that the main export in China is inflation.”
Which brings me to the next point, also reported by Angling International: Jarden Corporation, which owns Pure Fishing and its multitude of angling brands, recently announced it will be “repatriating” certain product lines from Asia back to America. “Our view is that wages and benefits in China will continue to rise by 15% to 20% annually,” said Jarden Chairman Martin Franklin, “as the economy becomes more consumer oriented and the long-term trend in shipping and transportation costs move upwards.”
That leads me to this important question: Will the growth of overseas economies mean a resurgence in the U.S. manufacture of fishing tackle? Might it actually be cheaper to make reels and rods here than to make them overseas?
American tackle manufacturing is far from dead, but most domestic-made products are at the mid- to high-end. Anglers meanwhile have gotten accustomed to inexpensive gear made overseas. Will fishermen be willing to pay more 10 years from now? Or will product quality be degraded in order to hold on to lower price points?
Your guess is as good as mine...
The Honest Angler by John Merwin, Field & Stream