In an attempt to provide a barometer of business, we asked a number of people in the hides and skins sector for their opinions. Unfortunately, the responses were as varied as the sources and depended where the respondent was located.

Due to the drought conditions in Australia, it is understandable that John Gorman thought the raw materials market and the quality was worse than a year ago.

We asked Don Ohsman of in the US if he could see any light at the end of the tunnel and he replied: ‘No light, unless you look into 2003.’

On the other hand, Geoffrey Gluckman of East Hides in the UK was fairly optimistic and thought that trade had improved since pre-September 11. He thinks prices of cattle and goat skins will go up but sheepskins will remain around current levels. East Hides have come a long way in the past ten years, setting up tanning operations in eastern Europe and outgrowing their London headquarters. For the full story turn to page 17 in this issue.

Sadly, nearly everyone thought that overall quality is deteriorating. This is a recurrent feeling year after year. They also felt that cattle hide prices would rise, while sheepskins will drop or remain at the same level.

When it came to the most important markets, opinion was divided between Europe and south-east Asia.

China has taken a back seat in the hide market during the summer. While there have been reports from the US of exports to the country, many of the sales appear to be purchases by Korean and Taiwanese tanners for onward shipment to China rather than direct Chinese participation.

According to MAF New Zealand, international hide prices peaked in April 2001 in response to rising demand for leather in Europe. However, excess supply has led to a build-up of stocks in tanneries, resulting in hide prices falling from May 2001 to February 2002.

In March 2002, there was a lift in prices.

Russian purchases of leather from Korea and China are well down this year and the demand for leathergoods in the US has fallen with the slowdown in its GDP. Hide prices also plunged in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.