At the end of March an article by Kelvin Chambwa was published in The Post (Lusaka) saying that a cattle hide trader from Lukulu District has complained over the export ban on raw hides, saying the move has adversely affected rural communities. Jeff Muyauka apparently believes that the ban has only worked to the advantage of a few tanneries in Lusaka.

According to Muyauka, tanneries such as Kembe had been lobbying for the ban until agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana introduced the ban. He said their argument that there were few raw hides on the market due to high export levels was false.

‘Most of these tanneries in Lusaka are just scared of competition and instead want to monopolise the trade’, Muyauka said. He complained that immediately after the ban on raw exports came into effect, local tanneries changed the buying conditions to the disadvantage of traders.

This sounds very like the situation which is unfolding in Rwanda where there is a mistaken belief that bypassing hide traders and keeping all the hides for the local industry will benefit the local tanning industry. However, for this to happen the country needs to have an organised and efficient tanning industry.

Muyauka said the problem had been compounded by the fact that tannery owners were at the moment not even buying any more hides. ‘Right now, these guys are not buying and have not been doing so since late last year because they just have too many hides in stock’, Muyauka said. ‘Though these tannery owners have abattoirs, up to 80% of their hides come from the villages meaning that if they stop buying, 80% of raw hides in Zambia are just rotting out there.

‘My estimation is that over 20,000 hides are stocked up countrywide without buyers and I wonder why the government still insists with the ban when they have been hearing our cry.’ Muyauka said due to the ban in exports of raw hides, he has had to lay off all his workers in Lukulu and suspended the purchase of the hides from other villagers.

‘This ban has affected a lot of people in the villages. In my case, I have lost out on business and can no longer afford to send my children to school’, Muyauka said. ‘At one meeting we asked the government to temporarily lift the ban but to no avail. We are being denied the right to trade in a liberalised economy in preference to a few rich foreign investors.’