While there is currently no tannery operating in the country, a UNDP-funded tannery is due to open shortly. Liwonde Tannery, owned by Khalid Hassen, a former professional crocodile hunter, will concentrate initially on producing wet-blue goat skins.

‘There’s an international demand for them’, according to Hassen, ‘and the raw skins are available. The intention is to produce enough to fill a container a month – about 27,000 skins.’

Hassen is reported as negotiating with the three largest abattoirs – one in Lilongwe and two in Blantyre – to obtain bovine hides, also to process to wet-blue for export. He said bovine slaughter was low and had been hit by the high price of meat but his aim would be to process 1,700-2,000 pieces/month, or enough to fill a 20 sq ft container.

‘Bovine is a secondary project’, he said. ‘The local cattle are small and the demand is correspondingly less but there is a great deal of interest in the goat skins.’ He said he hoped the tannery would open by the end January or early February. ‘The government would like to ensure the country gets more benefit from this raw material. However, at the moment I’m still resolving some issues with them regarding the import of chemicals.’ The tannery was originally to have been owned by a three-man partnership, including former president Bakili Muluzi, ‘but things didn’t work out’, Hassen said. His son, Iqbal, who currently lives in the UK, will run the plant.