When business is bad the trade generally approaches exhibitions with great pessimism and this latest event of the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF) was no exception. However, APLF still managed to put on a good show despite predictions of gloom and doom. There may have been fewer exhibitors and visitors but there were still more than enough to make this an important show, the aisles were busy and many stands could be seen taking business.

With even China suffering from overcapacity, insufficient labour and shortages of power, times are far from easy in the leather industry, but Hong Kong is a great place to catch up with old acquaintances and renew business contacts.

CICB’s Flavio Lucchese told Leather International that Brazil’s pavilion of 40 exhibitors, was the largest in their 15 year history at APLF, covering 500 sq m. The tanneries present represented more than 50% of Brazil’s leather production, which for 2005 is estimated at 40 million hides. Asia and, in particular, China is the most important market for finished, wet-blue and crust. CICB is looking to increase exports of finished leather. Companies such as Bertin, Brazil’s biggest leather producers, have already invested in China, installing a finishing factory in Guangzhou. Lucchese said that visitor levels on the first day had been excellent and he hoped this would continue, leading to lots of orders for tanners.

It was announced that India would be the next focus country, both for ACLE in September and for APLF 2006. Mrs Rashmi Kalia said that the India Trade Promotion Organisation was hoping to nearly double participation next year from 1,100 sq m this year to 2,000 sq m.

Indofil, speciality chemicals company based in Bombay), said: ‘We have been exhibiting at APLF for the last ten years and have noted a gradual decline. This year has been very quiet and the fact that Clariant and TFL are not here is indicative of this decline.’

On the plus side, Antonio Antoniazzi, stated: ‘We are first time exhibitors at APLF, and we have made some excellent contacts.’

Another first time exhibitor was the joint venture between Alpha Systems, India, and Swystem Logic of Switzerland who took advantage of the new Manufacturing Enhancement Technology Forum in Hall 3 which aimed at strengthening the industry’s awareness of new developments in leather manufacturing. The venture links Alpha’s Total Production Control System to Swystem’s Recipes TIM and there was a lot of interest at the show with contacts made with people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and India, with some Chinese collaborations.

The system is already available in Japanese and Chinese will be incorporated soon. The system can be supplied in any language as required and it takes only moments to switch from one language to another.

John Gorman, president of the Australian Hide Skin and Leather Exporters’ Association, said that there were more than 40 Australian companies at the show. Business had been reasonably good for the hide traders but the skin market is quiet due to lack of interest from China. Seven years of drought have reduced skin numbers to 92 million (142 million at its peak). There will be a major Australian presence at ACLE.

Perrine Ardouin, senior event manager, APLF stated that this year’s fair was a reflection of the state of the industry with the reduction in the number of European tanners in attendance, and the increase in Asian, particularly Chinese and Indian tanners. Michael Duck stated that the Australian presence at the fair is also growing, describing the industry in Australia as bullish.

The organisers having been working very hard to make APLF more attractive to visitors and exhibitors. They ran a full programme of seminars, initiated a prestige Buyers’ Club, held daily fashion shows for Fashion Access and for the second year running presented Best of APLF Awards. They also sponsored the 3rd Upholstery Leather Conference which was held the day before the show opened and which concentrated on upholstery leather manufacturing in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to awards for footwear, travelware and stand design, Pellerossa-TLP took the award for best new technology with their detailed lasercut leather. The citation describes ‘Rosetta’ leather as making use of laser cutting to achieve exquisite detailing and showing how such technology adds value to low-grade leather. Rosa Boni told Leather International that she takes low grades of leather and then plays around on her computer until she finds the right design to cut into the leather. It may be time consuming but Pellarossa are marketing some highly effective lace-cut leathers which make the basic raw material a very special product.

Best new leather went to Pittards for their Muffler which creates a new category for leather since it is neither nubuck nor full grain. This soft bovine for footwear is a 100% aniline leather with a semi matt surface. The award states that: Its low density, lightness and suppleness is ideal for footwear as it conforms to the foot to give maximum comfort.

A special award for education went to the British School of Leather technology and their certificate reads: For its role of advancing the international leather industry through its offering of various leather technology courses including distance learning programmes for a postgraduate diploma in leather technology. (Msc)