It may have been the last official International Hide Improvement Society Congress, but the IHATIS meeting in Ljubljana had plenty to interest, including a refusal to lay down and die. In fact, merely bowing to the inevitable, IHATIS conceded its international status and intends to continue in a European context in the future.

Slovenian raw hides and skins traders, KOTO hosted the meeting and proved that they were a world class organisation with twenty warehouses around the country collecting the bulk of Slovenian production as well as some from neighbouring Croatia. We will be writing more about them in a future issue.

Slovenia fared rather better than most of eastern Europe when in 1991 their particular war to break up the six republics of Yugoslavia only lasted ten days. Since tourism is a major earner of foreign exchange it is an hospitable country in which to meet and delegates enjoyed their stay.

The IHATIS Congress provides a venue for hide improvement experts to exchange ideas and give progress reports on the various field trials being conducted in their country in an effort to combat damage to animals and their hides or skins. Sadly, few countries seem to be actively involved in such work on an international scale.

Even sadder is the fact that some well intentioned schemes have failed to take hold. This is because it is the farmers who need to be educated and many will not pay for such simple remedies as ringworm vaccination, electric fences and dehorning since they find no obvious payback. Tanners, who should know better, are unwilling in the main to fork out more cash for premium hides.

One country, where there is an ongoing programme, is Sweden. Depending on the market, KHi reported an $8-15 difference between ordinary hides and ‘golden’ hides. They find there is a real demand for their golden hides and when trade is hard to find it is the ordinary hides which are harder to shift. Despite this, many Swedish farmers have not joined the scheme.

The winding up of IHATIS coincides with the retirement of Guy Reaks as secretary. Guy joined the leather industry from plastics in 1952 when he joined the British Leather Federation. On his original retirement, when the BLF moved to Northampton and merged with the BLMRA to become the BLC, he retained the secretariat of the International Council of Tanners. He has since retired from that role but took on IHATIS on the death of his wife Patricia Hene.

There have been many distinguished presidents of IHATIS over the years and the current incumbant is Serge Leuzinger of Switzerland. He is proposing to keep the dialogue on hide improvement going through European workshops every one or two years. His suggestion is to call the new organisation EHATIS.