Zimbabwe’s leather sector could reap greater export proceeds for the economy if it invests towards meeting international standards, an official has said.

Dutch leather expert and business consultant Hans Akkerman, told delegates, who attended a two-day leather industry seminar, that the local leather value chain could potentially contribute to the country’s economy if it manages to grow its export base.

“The industry has vast potential to grow from the state that it is in if it conforms to international standards. The whole leather value chain including the economy of the country will vastly benefit if tanneries export their leather,” he said.

The tanneries workshop was hosted by ZimTrade in conjunction with PUM from Netherlands. It provided delegates with the platform to engage and share insights on how to improve production and exports.

Phipps, a leather technician from South African-based leather company Mendelson and Frost, said international companies were now buying from those tanneries and firms, not only in Africa but also worldwide, that follow correct procedures throughout the leather value chain.

“International big brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and the likes are now looking down upon countries that do not follow the correct procedures in the whole leather value chain,” he said.

“The international market is building a good image for itself, so they want to buy from markets that are conscious of their environment and who combat issues like water, land and air pollution in their working environments.”

Phipps said tanneries across the globe, especially those in Africa and Bangladesh, were under fire from environmentalists like ZDHC for emitting hazardous chemicals into the environment.

He said for Zimbabwe to be recognised internationally they had to be audited by international bodies like the Leather Working Group (LWG).

“To build the country’s leather export base, firstly Zimbabwe has to be recognised by international bodies like LWG. What the body simply does is to develop and maintain protocols that assess the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers,” he said.