100 and not out!

20 August 2007

This is Limeblast 100 and as things were looking in January I intended this to be the last and finish the series on the occasion of this anniversary with: 'and my name is...' In January it was the very first time in almost ten years of a wonderful relationship with my dearest and platonically beloved editor, that we had a serious difference of opinion which made me resign. We tripped over a pair of shoes as habitual readers of Limeblast can easily imagine. During the last months things have been smoothed out and I withdrew my resignation just after the Hong Kong APLF. I am told some readers will be pleased, others, I am sure, will not. Let it be known that Shelagh has given me free rein in this time. She has only once refused to publish a particularly critical Limeblast. She has edited close to nothing and the printed Limeblasts are 99% of what I have originally written. She mainly doctors my English and my too long sentences. I am very grateful to Shelagh for putting up with me and my stories and sticking to me through thick and thin. She has been personally and professionally extraordinarily courageous by backing me on what have been sometimes rather dangerous issues. Until now we have been challenged only twice by lawyers or threatened with legal action. Once the lawyers backed down, and once Leather International blinked, according to me unnecessarily, but understandably. 100! Neither you nor I had ever thought, even in our wildest dreams, that we'd be able to reach this anniversary. My better half of 34 years merely shakes her knowledgeable head after reading each printed Limeblast and asks me regularly 'Why are you doing this? Why do you bother?!' Yeah.. why? Probably because I want the weak to get their fair share, which is now being taken from them by those who know how to play the game. Robin Hood? Don Quixote? Whatever has been written over these years in Limeblast, I can assure you has always been the truth. Some people may find this unpalatable but that is, of course, their problem not mine. Now back to the farm Let's have a laugh. In my AFLAI Limeblast of April I emphasised that the African leather industry should coordinate and communicate better. Well this suggestion is underlined by what happened with Promocuir which was planned for May 10-12 2007 in Tunis. Promocuir was promoted via the internet on the website of the Parc des Expositions du Kram, the same site as Meet in Africa 2002, as well as on several other leather related websites. Last February Promocuir appeared in Tunisian newspapers as an important fair that brought hundreds of exhibitors and visitors together. I'm sure that until Friday May 4, 2007, no changes were publicly announced or published, whereas on the day of the official opening of the fair the same website announced that 'the date above is postponed' and a new date was given as May 8-10, 2008. The website also suggests: 'Please note ! All dates are subject to changes. Contact organizers for more information before making arrangements.' As it happens a score of people were never informed one way or the other that Promocuir 2007 was cancelled and rescheduled for 2008. Many foreign visitors went to Tunis and when reaching the beautiful Kram exhibition centre they found the halls empty. People were redirected to another exhibition centre 'SoGeFoir' close to Tunis airport but when reaching this venue they found a fair on tourism. Although some important fairs such as Lineapelle and APLF invite visitors to register, others don't. Promocuir doesn't. Hence there was no way to inform unregistered visitors of the sudden cancellation. When foreign visitors, who have obviously spent a lot of money on air fare and hotel bookings called local trade contacts, they were surprised to find that local visitors also had no idea that the Promocuir fair had been cancelled. Those who had booked cheap internet airfares and hotels were forced to have a vacation as some bookings were not refundable. Luckily the weather was good and Carthage and Sidi Bou Said were waiting and did not disappoint. It is obvious that the Promocuir organisers have badly let down their country, their own industry and its visitors and have certainly not contributed to the promotion of Tunisian leather and leather products. Which visitor would trust the Promocuir organisers for any new announced fair specially when they have announced themselves that the 2008 dates are subject to change. Some people criticised the Egyptian organisers of Meet in Africa but at least the fair was there as planned and promised. I wonder what the organisers of Promocuir have to say. Who is going to reimburse those who came to Tunis to find empty halls and not a bustling fair? The East African hide trade is in a turmoil. As predicted, after the running-in period, the Chinese tannery in Jinja Uganda is roaming the region for hides. Agents of the tannery are extremely active at abattoir level in all surrounding countries to find sufficient supplies to fill their drums and keep them running. They pay generous advances which the butchers cannot refuse. Prices of green hides have skyrocketed and the usual local collectors will face very difficult times and some have already lost money in advances that have simply disappeared. Those markets which are known for a better than average East African quality are brutally tackled. Markets with a less than average quality, such as Kenya and Tanzania, seem less in demand although procurement of hides in Kenya has become rather difficult since early 2007. One wonders why so many Kenyan and Tanzanian tanneries are lying idle for years when newcomers like the Chinese in Uganda conquer the market in no time without the regional lobby. Or maybe that's exactly their secret. Stay away from the lobby and do things themselves their way. The French call it 'savoir faire' which translates into 'know how to do it'. When you are reading this Limeblast the government of Kenya will have announced their annual budget. Now, while I am writing, rumours say that Kenya will definitely raise the export duty on raw hides and skins maybe up to 40% and will probably also soon levy an export duty on wet-blue of 5%. The government aims to encourage the production of crust and finished leathers. One question will be how clear the policy will be on temporary imported raw hides and skins for contract processing. Will it all work? Who knows? A lot depends on the suppression of corruption and on the individual interpretation and use of rules and regulations on the part of the implementing authorities. A lot also depends on whether the government is prepared to accompany these regrettable protective laws with facilitations to attract investments at accessible conditions and interest rates, which according to me are more effective. Promote investment rather than kill free trade! Sam Setter [email protected]

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