The wealth of quality raw materials, land and an abundant employment pool makes Argentina an ideal place for tanning. Restrictions on exports of raw hides and wet-blue also offer incentives to local entrepreneurs to invest in the tanning sector.

Around 23 years ago, one such entrepreneur, Juan Carlos Campanera started the Donto business, initially making garment leather for the domestic market. During those early years he started forming contacts with Italian furniture upholstery leather producers and switched production to concentrate on upholstery. He and the company he founded have not looked back since.

These days the Donto Group is made up of two tanneries located around Buenos Aires. The older, finishing plant is located in the Don Torcuato district approximately 28km north of downtown Buenos Aires. Although in a built-up area, Donto have acquired land which houses a leather cutting and sewing operation to add value and allows customers, especially in export markets, to source cut and sewn panels ready for assembly.

Not content with a successful finishing and cutting operation Donto built a second tannery, which processes raw Argentine materials through to finished leather. The new plant was established to meet the extra demand for Donto leathers for upholstery and more recently footwear uppers. ‘Production at the new factory began very quickly after the building was constructed’, Luis Cisilino, sales manager, told Leather International. ‘Another tannery full of tanning machinery for footwear leather failed to begin production and we were able to buy all the equipment at a good price and to install it straight away.’

Modern tanning

The plant in Don Torcuato is located across several buildings and is situated in a mixed industrial and residential area. In order to expand their operations Donto looked for a second site to build a further tannery to increase capacity.

The second tannery in the Donto Group, built around the beginning of 2005, is situated in the area of Baradero, approximately 140km from the capital Buenos Aires. This features a beamhouse as well as a finishing operation. The new plant is built on a 53-hectare site and produces footwear upper and upholstery leather from raw salted hides to fully finished hides.

Donto were attracted to set-up a tannery in the area with the offer of cheaper land and other incentives such as lower taxes and salaries, as well as its proximity to slaughterhouses to ensure a supply of raw materials. The tannery buildings cover a surface area of 18,000 sq m and feature a beamhouse, finishing plant, raw material and finished product storage areas and a modern effluent treatment plant.

‘We are training staff at the plant in Baradero to cut and sew panels at the moment in order to add value to our tanning operations’, says Cisilino. ‘The new plant has been built to improve capacity for footwear upper leather. In recent times we have gained a number of new customers in China in the footwear business.

‘Baradero allows us to service the new clients while also maintaining business in the upholstery sector. Our customers must have confidence in what we produce’, he added. Donto expect the footwear upper leather sector to provide the best opportunity for business growth in the future.

Production at Donto is split approximately 50:50 between furniture upholstery and footwear upper leathers. The capacity at the two plants is 6,000 hides per day with around 1,100 employees across the two sites. Virtually all production is exported as finished leather or cut and sewn parts to their major markets in Brazil, China, Italy, Canada and the USA.