Dr Charles Nyamurunda, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said: ‘The strategy will address problems in the whole value chain and facilitate improvement of the quality of raw materials, improved capacity utilisation of the existing tanneries, attract more investment, facilitate acquisition of modern technology and product development and strengthening of stakeholder organisations.’
Although Tanzania ranks third in Africa in terms of livestock population after Sudan and Ethiopia, its hides and skin sector is underexploited. According to current figures, the country has around 18.5 million cattle, 13.1 million goats and 3.5 million sheep – a population size that has immense potential for value addition, generation of employment and increased export earnings.
In the early 1980s, the leather sector performed satisfactorily and at its peak in 1984 employed over 5,200 people. It is estimated that almost half of the hides and skins entering the commercial processing chain are of low quality, mainly due to poor animal husbandry practices, poor handling at abattoirs, poor preservation methods and inadequate enforcement of the existing law.
Nyamurunda said the problem of low quality hides and skins occasioned by defects extends to each of the stages of processing, thus ultimately determining the price. ‘This calls for intervention options or damage controls as early as possible in the value chain, at the pre-slaughter stage’, he said.
The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries recently put out a tender for consultancy services on benchmarking the hides, skins and leather. In 2005/2006 the country collected 1,660,000 hides, 1,450,000 goat skins and 950,000 sheepskins valued at Tsh6.8 billion ($5.6 million).
Tanzania, along with Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, is already part of the Commercialisation of Hides and Skins project for improving collection and quality in smallholder farming, funded by the Common Fund for Commodities under the supervision of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and is being run by the Eastern and Southern Africa Leather Industries Association.