The doubleface season beginning in August is the signal for Turkish producers to stir. But with war in progress, the leather industry, along with everyone else, is just waiting it out. ‘Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow’, is a catch phrase heard everywhere.

Orders for many leather items are token sales, not economic volumes. War is not the only worry. Producers worry about the sluggish European economy.

Germany, in particularly, is on the critical list and is a key market for many Turkish-produced goods, including leather garments and accessories.

With retail demand dropping, prices tend to fall off. But for producers of chemicals or other petrol-based items, costs will reflect per-barrel peaks. The Turkish government recently agreed to a 30% interest rate on consumer credit cards: this may rein in borrowing but could also curtail spending, with luxury items, such as leather fashion garments and up market handbags, taking the first hit.

Tanners predict shortages of good quality hides for the upcoming season. Mete Tumay, an Izmir-based trader, estimated that there would be about 15% fewer hides and skins available for the 2003 season.

‘In New Zealand the slaughter figures were between 30 and 40 million animals, but current figures show the kill at about 25 million’, he explained. He also noted the decline of fell-mongering as a profession.

The UK and Australia continue to be the countries of choice for doubleface buyers. But producers now look to north and south African markets and to south American and Middle East markets, drawn by plentiful animal populations. Tumay noted that many south American companies are selling crust into Türkiye in order to process skins immediately, move leather on and keep their factories running.

Leather hide broker, Barbaros Salman, of Salman and Vietri’s Izmir office, told Leather International that his firm is anxiously awaiting a June announcement on new directives to regulate the Russian market. About 90% of this firm’s trade in finished leathers is made into fashion garments for Russian customers.

Additionally, the strength and rising quality of China as a leather producer is a constant threat to Turkish producers. Providing China and Korea continue to process lower-end leathers, Türkiye’s finished leather producers are confident that they can maintain their mid-range/boutique production niche. Whatever the expected challenges, war adds a different dimension to the fleece industry. Biological misconduct could harm animals, breeding programmes and food supply chains, all of which would impact on the leather industry.

On the positive side, of course, peace will create prosperity, new markets, fresh investment and enhanced trading opportunities. Leather producers hope for a peaceful solution in what was once the Fertile Crescent.