New wet-blue tanneries are being planned in Namibia and Swaziland but established blueing plants are questioning the viability of increasing capacity. According to Dale King, African Hide Trading, the capacity of existing wet-blue plants in South Africa is around 3.8 million hides/year.

Official slaughter in South Africa is 1.8 million cattle/year, while unofficial slaughter is thought to be in the region of 2.2 million – a shortfall of 1.6 million hides. South Africa currently has 11 bovine wet-blue plants, while Botswana has one and Namibia two.

Charles Austin, Hidskin Processors, said that Namibian and Botswana operations had little or no effect on South Africa’s plants but ‘anyone who wants to open a new wet-blue plant in this region is crazy – there is more than enough capacity.’

King says that Swaziland generates between 3,000 and 4,000 hides/month and that three companies collect hides there: African Hide, Springbok Trading and Laeveld Huide & Velle. The quantities are so small that they share a store.

With increasing pressure on effluent disposal, wet-blue tanners do not believe it is viable to open small plants. They also say that existing plants are sitting on wet-blue stocks because automotive leather producers are not taking sufficient quantities.

The Omaheke Tannery in Witvlei, near Gobabis, plans to start processing wet-blue hides in the first quarter of next year. The tannery is adjacent to, but independent of, an abattoir. Project co-ordinator Katanda Marenga said the tannery was an empowerment project, under chairman Nate Ndauendapo.

The intention is to ‘start small’ by processing 200 hides/day. The abattoir will supply around 100 and they hope to obtain the balance from two hide merchants based in Gobabis.