January 4, 2005. Today the offices of Leather International have reopened after the overly long Christmas and New Year holidays. Most of this current edition of the magazine was prepared before the offices closed on December 24, 2004. I find myself in a curiously disjointed place where I need to put the finishing touches to the first edition of Leather International in the New Year while it was actually written in 2004.

Traditionally this is a very quiet time of the year for the leather industry as great quantities of turkey and ham are consumed and beef is largely omitted from the menu with a consequent drop in slaughter. It is also quite difficult to get people to focus on business in December as many are planning social activities and even vacations in the sun. So it was with horror that we heard of the catastrophic earthquake which took place under the Indian Ocean and which has caused so much devastation along the South East Asian coastlines.

The resulting tsunami has claimed many thousands of lives and left many homeless, without possessions, food, shelter or uncontaminated water supplies. While it is very wet in the stricken area it is also hot and, as we in the leather industry know only too well, putrefaction sets in very quickly, heralding a new source of disaster for the affected region.

The appalling consequences that these conditions will wreak on a region with no refrigeration or sewage are too awful to comprehend for those who are not actually there witnessing the devastation at first hand. The tsunami together with aftershocks and flash floods will have knock on effects for a very long time as the various governments struggle to rebuild the affected areas.

The people and governments of the world have reacted swiftly by donating large sums of money but, sadly, money is not enough. It is something however. Even when there are authorities on the spot, the police, army etc, there is nothing for them to organise, no resources, no experience of handling a natural disaster of this proportion.

Getting available aid through is proving a nightmare of impassable access routes. Even when the local authorities, army or police, are on the ground there is nothing for them to have authority over. With so many areas inaccessible, aid is being prevented from getting to the starving and unprotected victims.

Back in the leather industry, we hear that cattle under the age of thirty months are once more to be allowed into the US from Canada. So long as the move goes unchallenged this should occur from the second week in March. Strangely, beef from older cattle will also be allowed in but not the cattle themselves.

Life generally remains tough for the tanner. I heard from a friend in another continent that his company had been taken for a lot of money by an organisation with a good reputation. The company they had been supplying went bankrupt but the new owners assured them that they would be paid and urged them to keep the supplies coming.

The tannery owner made long haul flights to visit his new customer and with their word as guarantee of payment continued to send shipments, only to be told that the very sizeable debt would not, after all, be honoured. It is not the first time that a company has reneged on a contract but it leaves a particularly bad taste in the mouth when the company concerned trades on their previously good reputation.

My wishes for the New Year are for Honesty, Justice and Peace and I wish all our readers a prosperous and healthy 2005.

Shelagh Davy