The leather industry has been around for thousands of years – ever since mankind began hunting animals.
Hides and skins are a by-product of the meat industry, so supply does not react to demand for leather, but for meat. Leather is used in the automotive, footwear, furniture, clothing, leather goods and exotic leathers (e.g. ostrich) sectors.
Leather makes a contribution to the quality of everyday life: virtually everyone wears or uses one or more leather products on a regular basis.
The following are the main categories of skins or hides according to species.
Sources: A Profile of the South African hides, skins and leather market value chain 2015, available at www.daff.gov.za; The introduction to leather at www.leathercouncil.org.
2. International business environment
Visit www.leathercouncil.org, website of the International Council of Tanners. The Leather industry covers raw hides and skins, part processed leather, finished leather, leather components and leather products widely imported and exported, and is very much an international industry. The ICT website uses Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics to show that it is bigger than the meat industry.
Hide improvement schemes
Defects affecting hide and skin quality:
- Pre-slaughter - branding, barbed wire, tick, mite, veins (feeding deficiency), fine scratches caused by thorns, etc.
- Abattoir damage - Flay cuts, drag marks, stretch marks from hide pulling equipment, bruising, delay in curing (putrefication/rotting).
The only way hide improvement schemes have been shown to work is when the farmer can see the benefit of looking after his animals to result in a higher quality, less marked hide or skin. This relies on a trace-back system from end processor (tannery) all the way back through the abattoir to the original farmer, with him receiving some sort of bonus for delivering an animal with a good quality hide. Such schemes are rare – working best in sophisticated economies such as parts of Europe and Australia.
Source: International Council of Tanners website – www.leathercouncil.org
South Africa imports and exports
The major market for South African exports is Asia, followed by Europe. Hides and skins are imported from Brazil, India and Argentina. The latest annual A Profile of the South African hides, skins and leather market value chain looks at exports and imports. This includes tariffs and standards which have to be satisfied to access various markets like the EU, China and the USA. (Developing nations produce leather for export under license from retailers/buyers in developed countries, according to what these buyers want.)
Sources: A Profile of the South African hides, skins and leather market value chain 2015, available at www.daff.gov.za.
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