According to the German Tanners’ Association (Verband der Deutschen Lederindustrie eV) 2000 was a good year for the industry. With steady demand from the automotive sector and rising exports backed by a low euro, German leather production grew by about 10% to produce 17 million m2 last year. By sector, 60% went to car and furniture upholstery, 30% footwear and 10% for the leathergoods and garment industries.

Turnover of the 50 companies, with 3,500 employees, rose to 546 million euros (US$617 million) (+ 9%). Direct export sales went up 33% to 262 million euros (US$ 296 million) while domestic sales stagnated at 284 million euros (US$321 million).

Major export markets are the EU, Poland, Hungary, US, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Hong Kong. Total exports amounted to 706 million euros (US$798 million) in 2000 including re-exports. Exports to Eastern European countries were mostly for shoe and furniture upholstery products which are produced by German companies.

Leather imports in 2000 were 590 million euros (US$ 667 million) which came mostly from EU (68%), 70% of which is from Italy as well as Poland, India, Pakistan and Hungary. Other major imports came from Mexico and Brazil. Leather imports from the Far East have been reported to have declined over the last few years.

Last year tannery investments in plant installation to improve environmental standards, worker safety and quality control improvements all increased.

Looking to the future the German Tanners’ Association reports concerns over raw material trade restrictions. They highlight the recent decision of Brazil to put up 9% export tax on the trade of wet-blue and the ongoing Argentinean ban on exports of bovine hides as of great concern to the European tanners.

The current BSE crisis in Europe will further lead to a temporary reduction of hide supplies and the spread of foot and mouth disease brings further threats to hide supplies.