Future Looks Bright for Leather Industry

| January 30, 2015

My memory never fails me whenever I reminisce about the old days when my grandmother would spend days drying animal hides.

Each morning, she would add a good amount of salt to the hide, copiously salting all the edges and folds. In the evening, she would take the hide inside a small roundavel that served as a kitchen.

Unfortunately after all her effort, she would wait for a Good Samaritan for days or months just to take the preserved skin some 100 kilometres to Francistown where she would in return get a single P20 note.

Curiously, the note would not even afford her a packet of cheap rice, let alone its colourants, which were then considered a ‘delicacy’ on Christmas Day. Three decades later, nothing seems to have changed that much. The market has not experienced much growth either.

Prices fluctuate between P120iece for country hides and P280iece for municipal hides while skins range between P5 and P8. However, the future looks promising with the envisaged Lobatse leather industry park.

Before trade and industry assistant minister, Mr Sadique Kebonang, jets off to Chennai, India on January 31 for a benchmarking exercise, he explains in an interview that findings of Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) study carried out in conjunction with Indian experts in 2011 indicate that development of the leather sector value chain in Botswana requires a comprehensive and holistic approach.

Chennai-based Central Leather Research Institute has offered expertise in African states such as Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.

Mr Kebonang says currently the population of cattle, goats and sheep in Botswana is approximated at 2.5 million, 1.8 million and 300 000 respectively while the import value of leatherroducts stands at P130-P150 million (CSO data 2010) with exports ranging between P50-60 million (CSO data 2010).

Since hides and skins are exported in salted form, this works against Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product and such factors have frustrated the full potential export of these raw materials.

At the same time, full potential of hides and skins export is not realised because farmers are not getting proper value for their produce. The market prices for hides and skins favour buyers while disaantaging sellers-farmers.

Meanwhile, Mr Kennedy Selawe of Mr Leather in Maun explains in a telephone interview that he prefers buying fresh hides from butcheries tan and then preserve. Sometimes he would purchase processed hide which when halved costs P1 200 or double the price when whole.

He says a minimum of 20 pairs of shoes can be made from a single hide and each pair would later be sold at P500 or more bearing in mind determinants such as quality. At the moment, Europe and Italy are some of Botswana’s raw products consumers and Mr Kebonang says the same market has been secured for finished products.

He adds that factors such as market availability determine viability of the leather park. “Some tanneries collapsed due to the fact that they were not run like industries but rather by individuals without proper coordination.”

Though the project is expected to buy hides and skins in bulk from industries such as Botswana Meat Commission and municipal abattoirs, Mr Kebonang explains that individuals will too be free to offer raw materials for sale though it is premature for him to estimate the buying price range.

And he is quick to promise farmers value for their produce. Availability of underground water, proximity to the Durban port, green raw hides from BMC which can be used without salting are some of the factors that scored big for the ‘dying to be reborn town’ to be the preferred location.

He adds, “I don’t think in future we will have similar projects in other places where there are abattoirs, maybe it would be small industries connected to the one in Lobatse. And we will be buying raw products across the country.”

Such would also be a boon for different businesses such a transport. The assistant minister will be accompanied by LEA authorities whom he said are the owners of the idea, thus they are crucial stakeholders in implementation and success of the project.

Lobatse Town Council officials are also part of the delegation because they played a major role of donating the land that the leather park will stand on.

The delegation will have an opportunity to visit the leather park in India, attend the Indian International Leather Fair and visit the rapid incubator run by the National Small Industries Corporation of India. The corporation is an equivalent of LEA and has a Memorandum of Understanding with LEA that was renewed last October.

After all, as the curtain is about to fall on the 201415 financial year, eyes will be on the finance minister, Mr Kenneth Matambo, to give the project its share of the cake to kick start infrastructure development on a 38 hectare stand .

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: Business & Finance

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