In April, kills in Ireland dropped below 25,000 head of cattle per week and the low kill is expected to continue until at least the end of May. Despite the reduced availability of hides, the hide market continued to fall against expectations and there was great uncertainty as to what would happen in May.

At the Hong Kong fair, US hide sellers were freely quoting prices back $2-3 per hide on the first day of the fair. This is the first time in living memory that the fair opened with sellers agreeing on the first day that the market was weak.

The usual modus operandi for American hide sellers is to talk the market firm and then take lower prices on the last day if the market is soft. The stance this year was so very much different and this meant that the pessimists in the trade began to predict meltdown in the hide market in a similar way that the lambskin market has crashed.

However, this is unlikely to happen because hides and skins service two completely different markets and comparisons between the two are unjustified and unfair. At the same time it is true that for the first time in a very long time falling kill numbers in Europe and the USA have been accompanied by lower prices and the question now is just how far will the market fall.

UK wet-blue producers at the fair said that there was a significant business to be had but it was at a price and that the raw hide market had to fall further to allow them to book the business.

Prices at the beginning of April were as follows:

36kg+ 74p

31/35.5 84p

26/30.5 86p

22/25.5 92p

Cull cows stayed steady at £13.50 green ex abattoir.

At the Hong Kong fair the big talking point was the collapse in fellmongering skin prices. There were reports of large inventories in skins throughout the UK and Ireland. Prior to the fair there were rumours of problems with letters of credit between the banks in the UK and Ireland and a large bank in China. This caused concern to everyone dealing with China with regard to the validity and worth of an L/C.

However, by the end of the fair it was reported that the issues between the banks had been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and that all L/C commitments had been honoured. This was good news all round.

Speculation at the fair centred around the price of new season doubleface and which market would take the skins. Turkish tanners said that they had no appetite for new season and Chinese tanners were unsure as they were inexperienced with this type of skin. This has left skin collectors very nervous over how to price the skins at the abattoirs.

It is expected that there will be no top up on skins this year. Fellmongers went for $5.50.