It was a great relief to exhibitors and organisers alike that this year’s Asia Pacific Leather Fair was well attended. It is now twenty years since the first event was staged in 1984, outgrowing the original exhibition centre, then the newly-built convention and exhibition centre and finally coming to rest in the greatly extended building overlooking the harbour at Wanchai.

Many anticipated poor attendance after last year’s cancellation but this was not the case. The show did not change the face of current business but as a meeting place, the fair more than fulfilled its function and was, as always, well run, bright and airy.

Most people assumed that the organisers were insured against last year’s cancellation. However, unsurprisingly given the nature of the insurance business, it was decided that the SARS epidemic was not covered under the terms of the contract so the organisers were left with a huge dilemma.

Either, they kept exhibitors’ payments and risked alienating their customer base or they returned them and took a loss on expenses already incurred. They decided to maintain a good future relationship with their customers and returned the money. A hard choice, but a necessary one.

They also introduced a number of new initiatives and were rewarded with a 46% increase in pre-registrations. It will be a while before the official, audited, results are available but whatever they reveal there were long queues to get in and plenty of traffic in the aisles.

The ‘Best of APLF’ awards were judged by a panel of industry professionals to select the best product in a number of categories and the best new leather was a washable naked white lambskin designed by Seafuro Gerardo for Carsten’s Suede and Leather.

The focus country this year was Pakistan with a contingent of 75 exporters of leather and leather garments. The value of leather garments from Pakistan from July 2003 to February 2004 rose by 48% over the same period a year earlier, reversing a two-year decline of between 25-35%.

Fawad Ijaz Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Leather Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said: ‘We have recently completed an upgrade programme with the assistance of Korean technicians so we can produce the right quality at internationally competitive prices. Hopefully this will make the ‘Made-in-Pakistan’ symbol synonymous with quality.’

As always, it is very difficult to get a clear perspective of a show which encompasses so many diverse sources, species and products. While some thought there were more mainland Chinese visitors, due to an improved visa situation, one exhibitor said that he had sold most of his pickled sheep and wet-blue goat in China before the show because he found that the majority of Chinese tanners stay in China. He believes that to sell to China, you have to go there and he will exhibit at the ACLE in China as usual.

Paul Woodward, principal of Business Strategies Group, told journalists that 14 of the world’s top 50 economies are in Asia which accounts for 25% of the world’s economy and half of the people. The economy of Japan is equal to that of the rest of Asian countries put together.

Moreover, the Japanese economy which has been stagnant in recent years, has begun to grow once more, albeit slowly. A faster growth in the Chinese economy means that it is likely to overtake Italy in two years and France and the UK in five in terms of GDP.

2004 is set to be the best year in Asia since 2000 with growth rates back to those of the 1990s. This is being fuelled by the growth in China and India and the rebound in the US economy.

Leather International asked a number of tanners for their view of the show:

Couros Bom Retiro – BrazilM

A large Brazilian pavilion housed a number of the country’s leading tanneries at the show this year. Couros Bom Retiro (CBR) are a large group consisting of twelve tanneries located across the southern Rio Grande do Sul state of Brazil; six processing to wet-blue and a further six producing finished leathers. They process over 10,000 cow hides a day for footwear, upholstery and leathergoods leathers.

‘We are using this fair to contact new customers’, says Sandra Borges Salazar, sales, CBR. ‘It is our first time at the APLF and so far we have received visitors from the US, Canada, Germany and China.’

CBR employ 2,800 people across the group and the business is owned by three partners and was founded in 1989. The company headquarters are located in Teutônia, Rio Grande do Sul.

Jay AR Enterprises – India

‘The show has been good for us. We haven’t seen much in the way of new business but I have seen most of my existing customers. Most of them have re-ordered’, said Jasmine Yuan, a spokesperson for Jay AR Enterprises from Chennai, India. Jay AR produce goatskin (60%), sheep (20%) and calfskin (20%) leathers. Major markets include China and South Korea and they employ between 350 people and their speciality is producing glazed kid leather for footwear. The business is owned by K Rajendra Reddy, the current managing director.

H Sadar Ali Akhtar Ali (HSA) – Pakistan

Most exhibitors attending the show from Pakistan were in agreement that being the focus country had helped raise their profile during the APLF this year. One such business was H Sadar Ali Akhtar Ali or HSA. ‘We have received a good number of visitors during the fair’, said Naeem Akhtar, director, HSA. The tannery produces between 1.3-1.5 million sq ft of buffalo and goatskin leathers per month and is ranked among the top ten largest in Pakistan.

The family-owned business is run by three brothers and is located close to the city of Lahore. HSA control a total of four tanneries throughout Pakistan employing 400 people. Their major markets include European and US shoe and garment makers. Recently they began producing their own line of furniture upholstery leathers.

‘We have had a good show. I have met new customers on our stand from Türkiye, China and Taiwan’, Naeem Akhtar told Leather International. HSA have been attending the APLF for almost 20 years.

Shin Kwang Co Ltd – South Korea

Shin Kwang are a Korean-based company who have two factories in South Korea and Vietnam producing pu coated split leathers for footwear. Their customers include the large multi-national brands such as Nike and Adidas. ‘The fair has been quite good’, S Y Jang, general manager of the China Office, said. ‘We are looking for both new business and new suppliers of split leather here in Hong Kong’, added Jang.

Shin Kwang produce over three million sq ft of pu splits for footwear and leathergoods per month. Currently, they source splits from the US, Australia and Bangladesh but they are looking for new suppliers.

They were one of the first companies to produce pu coated splits when they began the operating in 1983 at their South Korean factory. Splits are supplied either as wet-blue or in the crust condition.

Wendeng Senlu Tanning Co Ltd (Huisheng Tannery) – China

Wendeng Senlu Tanning company are the Chinese market leaders when it comes to processing pigskin leathers. The company process a massive 400,000 pieces of pigskin leather for garments each month with an additional 50,000 pieces of cowhide for upholstery leather.

‘We are showing a number of new fashion items at the APLF this year. This is the eighth time that we have participated and we use the show to meet new customers’, says Sun Hongtao, production director.

The tannery is located in the northern Shangdong province of China near the capital Beijing. Approximately 2,000 people are employed at the tannery, producing leathers for the US, Russian and domestic markets. They count US supermarket giant, Walmart among their customers.


Around 320 Italian companies took part in both editions of the APLF this year representing tanneries, tannery suppliers, components and accessories. ‘This has been a good edition in general and much better than expected’, said a spokesperson for the Italian Tanners’ Association, UNIC. ‘Many visitors have been on our stands from the US, Japan and South Korea. The market situation in Europe has not been good so it is nice to report some good news’, they added.