ZIMTRADE, in conjunction with a Netherlands-based organisation PUM, are exploring the possibility of creating a pilot project linking companies in the supply chain so as to demonstrate best business practices in the leather industry. PUM, an organisation of experts that help businesses to thrive and transform lives, is already providing technical advice to players in Zimbabwe’s leather value chain.
Mr Hans Akkerman, a leather and textiles coordinator for the Dutch Senior Expert Programme, was in the country recently to provide technical assistance to meet leather industry players.
Mr Akkerman said there has been an improvement on efficiency and quality, leading to enhanced export competitiveness in the local leather sector.
However, he said more needs to be done, particularly on improving the system of storing hides and delivering them to tanneries.
“There is also need to implement a grading system for hides that will incentivise the breeders to practice good animal husbandry.
“Companies I worked with in Zimbabwe also highlighted the difficulty in accessing foreign currency to import raw materials, especially at the tanneries,” said Mr Akkerman.
He also said it was critical to capacitate local tanneries to produce quality finished leather.
Presently, some tanneries are only exporting wet blue.
Mr Akkerman’s visit was organised under the auspices of engagements between PUM and ZimTrade, the country’s trade development and promotion body.
Since the signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between PUM and ZimTrade in 2016, over 50 experts have visited Zimbabwe to promote best practices in the horticulture and manufacturing sectors.
This visit by Akkerman was a follow up on previous scoping and technical intervention exercises whereby recommendations were made to 17 companies including tanneries as well as leather and leather products manufacturers.
ZimTrade acting CEO, Allan Majuru, expressed optimism that through business linkages and training, Zimbabwe’s leather sector can grow and generate the much-needed foreign currency.
Research shows that the global hides, skins and leather products market was worth around $260 billion in 2016 and Mr Majuru believes Zimbabwe’s contribution can be improved by implementing various reforms in the sector.
“It starts with the farmers who are branding their cattle in a way that damages their hides. With the right incentives and knowledge in place, this can change.
“There are also issues to do with our technology and manufacturing methods which, once improved, will make this sector one of the leading export revenue drivers.
“ZimTrade is also lobbying for duty free importation of raw materials used in the leather sector,” said Mr Majuru.
Zimbabwe’s leather and leather products have great potential for export to countries such as France, Italy, Singapore, America, the United Kingdom and Germany. Regionally, Zimbabwe exports to South Africa and Zambia.