hide prices bounced off their lows during December, but only because some buyers and speculators felt that prices had fallen too low.

This mini revival in hide prices might be short lived, however, as orders appear to be thin on the ground.

Several tanners were saying that when they tried to get increased prices for their wet-blue, they were met with a deafening silence from their customers.

Part of the optimism surrounding the rising prices was due to the fact that in October and November, hides were sold regularly and there were no stocks of hides in warehouses in the UK and Ireland.

This situation changed during December and some continental buyers stopped taking 36kg+ because they had accumulated plenty of stock and were now finding croupon sales difficult.

When Italy returned from the holidays the telephones remained fairly quiet. In fact, the main business for tanners has been in wet-blueing cull cows which have continued to trade cheaply. No tanner wants to pay £10 more for a wet-blue 26/30 than for a heavy cow. The low price of the cows keeps the rest of the market in check.

Despite the low kills in early January, the expected increase in prices was not realised and predictions are for prices to slide back gently in January.

Hide prices in early January were as follows:

36kg+ – 74p

31/35.5 – 85p

26/30.5 – 95p

22/22.5 – £1.04

Heavy cows went for £24 and lights for £21.

Skin prices stayed stready throughout December. Doubleface production fell to the normal seasonal lows and the bulk of business centred around fellmongering skins. This is the time of the year when the differential between UK skins and Irish skins becomes apparent.

However, due to foot and mouth disease in the UK, less sheep were dipped because of movement restrictions, resulting in greater bacterial damage to UK skins, so the differential was not as marked as in previous years.

Doubleface skins were sold for £6 ex yard and fellmongers went for £4.