In this Limeblast, I am going to touch a number of subjects rather than elaborate on one single item. It is said that a change of diet creates an appetite.


Let me inform you that we have a new country where the SFF has been installed and experimented with success. An SFF has been successfully set up in an old abattoir in Dhaka and seems to give good results, including the hope that it will spread throughout Bangladesh.

Shortly also Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, hopefully Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda will be added to the list of SFF users.

Both Unido and Cotance are trying to raise funds from sponsors for an organised programme for the SFF.

Cotance have approached several NGOs to make them aware of the SFF and Cotance themselves have pledged funds for the construction of ten SFFs.

It is extremely surprising though that there is very little interest from the tanning industry itself, who are the beneficiaries of good quality hides.

When Tony Mossop became president of the International Council of Tanners, he promised to keep in contact.

After that promise, I haven’t heard from him or ICT, who would be the ideal sponsor for the SFF.

Last but not least I have put a new SFF blueprint complete with flaying platform on my website []


At long last, the SARS days are over and slowly slowly business moves back to the foreground. Hotels in Hong Kong and other ex-SARS areas are reporting better occupancy figures for business travellers.

There remains some legitimate doubt whether there would have been any visitors if APLF had not been cancelled, even after Hong Kong had been officially taken off the WHO travel advisory and declared free of SARS the week before the re-scheduled APLF was supposed to be held.

Trade with China has been severely disrupted during the three SARS months and many suppliers of raw materials had a very rough time.

Like after the September 11th attack, US importers cancelled, for whatever reason, contracts with their suppliers. With SARS, the Chinese importers went to great lengths to cancel legitimate contracts or find excuses not to take up and honour documents of goods that had arrived at their destination.

At best, prices were renegotiated. One supplier was told that his wet-salted hides were hairslippy and that the contract was cancelled due to bad quality. The Chinese buyer was apparently clairvoyant because the goods were still afloat at sea.


Statistics are rather important and very difficult to obtain. When you see FAO reports, they are plastered with statistics, but I wonder how reliable they are, how much is invented and how much is reality.

In the developed world we can safely assume that statistics are quite close to reality, whereas in developing countries, I think the word reliable has a totally different meaning when it comes to statistics.

Primarily all export figures are marred because not all the exports are official. A large part of exported hides are not reported to the authorities and hence are not included in official statistics.

There is an anecdote of an important European tanner who went to Burma some 20 years ago and, being a prospective important business partner for the country, was received by the Minister of Commerce. After the pleasantries were over, the minister and tanner got down to business in terms of how many skins could be put at the disposal of the tanner.

The Minister consulted his aid who called the appropriate guy at their bureau of statistics and they came up with the answer, that Burma could sell 24&bsquo;000 goatskins.

The tanner wanted to know whether that was per hour. He was told that such a large number was for the whole year! This obviously left the tanner speechless!..

As it turned out all the other millions of skins were smuggled over the border to Bangladesh, and the authorities in Rangoon had no idea what happened to the skins of their slaughtered animals.

After having been rather sceptical towards statistics, I must admit that I’d like to gather information from SFF users that compares pre-SFF data with post-SFF data both for the speed of flaying and for the selection improvement. It is frustrating that none of the users are very helpful in this respect.


I have always sustained that e-trade is interesting, but not workable for the leather trade. When I talked about this topic with my friends in the business, none, virtually none reported sales or purchases via the e-trade possibilities, and only a few had subscribed to e-commerce services.

LeatherXchange introduced themselves in 1999 as the main players in the field and the proverbial future for our business. They hired ‘experts’ from all around the business, developed specific software with investments to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

With a tough and expensive marketing campaign, we were all told that LeatherXchange would change the leather trade.

In fact that’s what they tried to do, but in the process the leather trade remained the same and LeatherXchange underwent several drastic changes, mainly perceived by me as cutbacks because of setbacks.

We will never know how many people actually did business via LeatherXchange, neither will we ever know how many people subscribed to the $2,500 fee service, because those are closely guarded secrets.

What we do know is that the all the highly advertised whistles and bells, the huge staff, have all fallen silent.

Lots of smoke has been blown into the eyes of this trade, but we stuck to our tradition and didn’t let ourselves be manipulated or fooled.

The heralded success of LeatherXchange was only in the minds of those who promoted it. The trade was apparently not fooled.

Our trading tradition does renovate itself but doesn’t accept a revolution by people who don’t have a clue about this industry.

The so-called trade experts they employed, who tried to sell the product should have warned the IT people, because they should have known. They were certainly told by what was perceived as their customer base, us, the industry.

LeatherXchange on the other hand treated me actually very well indeed and I wish to mention that.

They were available and developed, when nobody wanted to listen to me about the SFF, free of charge the automatic presentation of the SFF for my website for which I remain grateful.

They were probably ahead of the time and certainly out of their depths in this trade.

Sam Setter