the market steadied during November as tanners and hide markets tried to get a feel for the direction that the market might go in the New Year.

Kills were good during November and hides were moving nicely. Supply was balanced by demand, just about, and there was a lot of uncertainty about. Tanners were expected to close for two weeks over the Christmas and New Year period, and kills were forecast to remain strong. This could lead to an oversupply.

There was further concern when one of the UK’s premier brand leather manufacturers posted a profits warning to the stock exchange, followed by a report in the financial papers that another long established automotive leather producer had sustained severe losses for the year 2000.

All of this combined with the declared recession in the US is felt to point towards lower prices all round.

One leading UK tanner felt that because the most active market was in cows at present due to a large cull, and because these hides could be bought at an attractive price, and therefore sold on at a reasonable price, his customers would pay more. So when the cull slows down as it traditionally does in January/February, hide prices would have to come down substantially to maintain wet-blue business.

All in all, there are no signs on the horizon to indicate any form of a recovery in the market and in fact, the market is more likely to fall back further, albeit gradually.

Prices at the end of November were as follows:

36kg+ – 70/71p

31/35.5 – 81/82p

26/30.5 – 90/92p

22/25.5 – £1.05

Heavy cows were £22 and light cows £21.

The lambskin market has developed into a two-tier market, split between those who can export to Poland and those who cannot. Poland allows the import of skins from the Republic of Ireland but not from the UK or Northern Ireland.

This has resulted in a gap in prices between the two countries where doubleface from the Republic of Ireland was sold for £6 ex yard, while the price in the UK was £5.

This is a reversal of the normal situation where UK material generally was worth 50p more than Irish skins. However, as we reach the end of the doubleface season, this anomally is expected to disappear.

Fellmongering skins, which account for 80% of a run today, continue to be weak. We were all saddened by the closure of Kinghorn by Pittards as they were good customers of all Irish suppliers.

Obviously, this is a very difficult market and is expected to remain so. Some markets expect greater interest from Turkish fellmongers at the fair in Istanbul in January. The price for fellmongering skins at the end of November was £3.50 per skin ex yard.