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Liberal export market boon for hide merchants

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BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

THE move by government to open the export market for raw hides has seen hide merchants in the country entering into business partnerships with modernised tanning companies in South Africa, China and other Asian countries, an official has said.

Early this year, government, through the Finance ministry, granted an export tax relief to registered raw hide merchants, as it moved to reduce the amount of un-beneficiated leather raw materials that were going to waste.

Livestock and Meat Advisory Council economist Reneth Mano told NewsDay in e-mailed responses that the move had started bearing some fruits.

“The move by government to open the export market for raw hides is a very positive move because some hides merchants here in Zimbabwe have entered into business partnerships with modernised tanning companies in South Africa, China and other Asian countries which are globally more competitive than Zimbabwe tanneries,” Mano said.

“We expect to see most of the hides from Zimbabwe’s livestock industry being exported in either raw form or semi tanned form in 2019, thanks to government policy. Otherwise these raw hides were going to waste,” he said.

Since the policy review in December last year, Mano said there were three companies presently buying raw hides from abattoirs around Harare and Bulawayo for export in raw dried form to the Far East.

“This was not the case before the policy change. We are optimistic, therefore, that Zimbabwe will witness an upsurge in exports of raw hides and semi-processed hides during the first half of 2019 compared to 2018,” he said.

Mano said the local leather industry faces a number of challenges such as the limited stock of commercially managed beef herd.

Presently, supplies of beef slaughter cattle are coming from communal herd where cattle is raised for a multiplicity of on-farm uses and only sold for residual value after five to seven years of work in the rural agricultural homestead.

“The raw hides from such working cattle is often scratched and damaged over time and is, therefore, not going to be the first class quality hide the world uses for making leather products,” he said.

“Only commercially raised beef cattle slaughtered at 18 to 30 months produces quality hide without blemishes and damages which the leather industry highly prize, hence the need to expand commercial beef production herd on A1 and A2 farms.”

The other challenge, Mano said, was the poor state of technical advancement of the country’s domestic tanneries most of which are not compliant with global environmental regulations in terms of effluent discharge and greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-compliance with environmental regulations limits the global market appeal for leather or leather products made from leather produced from domestic tanneries, he said.

“Hence, some of the domestic shoe-manufacturing and exporting companies are now importing certified greener leather to make shoes and boots for the export markets,” Mano said.

“There is need for domestic tannery owners to attract global equity investment partners who can facilitate technology transfer so that our tanneries can leapfrog into the modern era in terms of technical efficiency and environmental compliance.”

“Perhaps such modernisation of domestic tanning industry may improve the global competitiveness of leather produced from the domestic tanning industry,” he said.

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