According to the Pakistan Tanners Association Annual Report (2020-21), foreign shipments of leather and leather products from Pakistan increased by 8.86% from $765.35 million in fiscal year 2019-20 to $833.19 million in fiscal year 2020-21. Former Pakistan Tanners Association chairman Agha Saiddain lamented that in 2007-08, the leather exports stood at $1.25 billion per year and now, they had declined to $833 million.

With regard to the structure of leather exports, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, around 20% of total exports in fiscal year 2020-21 comprised finished leather, 34% leather garments, 31% gloves, 13% footwear and 2% leather goods.

“It is a strange thing that the export of footwear is less and leather garment is more,” Saiddain said. “The global figures are not like that. In the world, footwear makes up 65% of total leather exports.”

He added that Pakistan had not worked on their footwear sector and there were no joint ventures. Besides, the law and order situation in Karachi was unsuitable for big brands, he said.

Citing that China was the largest producer of footwear and leather goods and Pakistan produced excellent leather for big brands with lower labour costs, he was of the view that there was immense potential for cooperation between the two countries to create a win-win situation. He also suggested inclusion of joint ventures in the Special Economic Zones under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

He added that tanneries could process raw material from all over the region in Pakistan including those imported from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

“Currently, we are utilising only 50% of our tanning capacity and 50% more capacity exists. It takes no time in increasing the capacity,” he said.