VM Khaleelur Rahman
Export of leather garments, which were to the tune of $302.96 million during the period April-Dec 1998, suffered a drastic setback as it declined by 20.73 per cent to $240.16 million during the same period in 1999, according to DGCI&S, Calcutta sources.
Reasons for this decline are lack of fashion for the types of garments being made here and lower prices paid by overseas customers in the highly competitive world market.
Production of leather garments is done both in small scale as well as large scale basis mostly through tie-ups with tanners - suppliers of leathers. There are hundreds of units spread across the country engaged in making leather garments either out of nappa or suede leathers - goat, sheep or cow - which are bought from manufacturers in places like Vaniyambadi, Ambur, Chennai etc.
Many North Indian garment manufacturers have been doing roaring export business with the marketing support of NRI friends and relatives. Such a business based on a sound footing is affected putting a large number of garment makers in financial problems. However, many well-established units still carry on their business though prices are lower and orders insufficient, with the hope that it will be paying in the long run. At present there is good demand for sheep nappa garments, polo types, at prices ranging from $40.00 to $55.00. There is little demand for suede garments. But there is very possibility of ``suede'' becoming fashion in the coming season.
In finished leathers, tanners are quoting higher prices for their upper and lining leathers due to increase in prices of raw materials, but there is resistance for this in the overseas market. Good quality linings in goat leathers are quoted at around $0.90 per sq.ft. CIF. In sheep suede leathers there business has been reported in all suedes/LDT/Rejection at around Japanese Yen 185/125/100 per sq.ft. CIF. But business are rare and not frequent.
In the local market, sheep nappa lots are sold at around Rs 41 per sq.ft. There is good demand for this item bought by garment manufacturers. This has made the raw skins prices go up further by about Rs 20 per piece at centres where quality is good.
E I Tanned goat skins Garment Suede/All Suede/Shoe Suede/Heel garip are sold at around Rs 30/27/23/18 per sq.ft respectively, whereas prices for A/B/C linings are sold at around Rs 18/16/14 per sq.ft. Rejection and Langda are easily salable at around Rs 135 and Rs 110 per kg. Prices of raw goat skins in places like Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi and Punjab are at around Rs 65 and in Southern belt areas like Modachur, Miraj etc. at around Rs 90 per piece.Wetblue goat skins 3/5 size lots are sold at around Rs 35 to Rs 40 per sq.ft depending on the quality and selection. Wetblue cow hides prices are almost unchanged and shoe manufacturers continue their operations in Erode, Ambur etc. There is good demand for grades I/II at around Rs 58 per sq.ft. but availability is limited. Many big shoe units have their regular imports to cover their requirements of high grade wetblue cow hides from countries like Switzerland and Germany.
(The author is a Chennai-based leather industry analyst)