Business appears to be moving in the right direction for Mexican tanners. The decline of the US economy has had a serious impact on the Mexican leather and footwear industry over the past 18 months. However, the mood seems to be more optimistic since the turn of the year. Mexican tanners expect steady rather than spectacular growth.

Raw material prices appear to be favourable for the time being after the turbulence sparked by foot and mouth disease a year ago and most tanners felt more confident during the Anpic fair. The show is often seen as a barometer measuring the mood of the industry in Mexico. Their major worries are the high strength of the peso, currently around nine to the dollar and the threat of cheap footwear from the Far East.

‘The market in Mexico has started to improve since the beginning of this year. Last year was not a good year for us but so far this year things are looking better’, Gerardo Padilla Villalpando, director general of Mexican upper tanners Concurmex, told Leather International. ‘I don’t think that we will see the growth of a few years ago though’, he added.

Concurmex specialise in producing 35,000 sq ft per month of ladies’ and men’s upper leather for both dress and casual shoes. They supply several international brands with Mexican produced leather, using US steer and heifer hides.

Concurmex are a medium sized tannery by Mexican standards but many tanners in the country are still small scale with many companies producing less than 100 sides per week.

Many feel that the tanning industry in Mexico is heading for consolidation. ‘There are those who only make wet-blue and those who produce finished leather’, said one chemical supplier.

At the recent Anpic show in León, several chemical and machinery suppliers told Leather International that industry in Mexico is or would go through a period of transition. They believe that the medium and larger tanners have become much more professional in the past few years and many of the small scale ‘cottage tanners’ will fall away as the regional governments in Mexico tighten environmental laws.

The larger, more established companies are also branching away from traditional home and US markets in a bid to reduce their risk. Many are also moving into new lines such as furniture and automotive upholstery, particularly when major US brands are setting up plants in Mexico and many US tanners have closed or moved to the Far East. One example is the large León located tannery, Wyny.