Falling demand for leather in the apparel and footwear industries of European and Chinese markets has pushed the growth rate of exports of Indian leather and footwear industry into negative.
Falling demand for leather in the apparel and footwear industries of European and Chinese markets has pushed the growth rate of exports of Indian leather and footwear industry into negative. India exported leather and footwear worth $5.7 billion in the last fiscal year, which was 0.85 per cent lesser than the previous year. Leather industry plays an important role in the Indian economy in view of its substantial overall output and exports earnings. The last fiscal year 2018-19 marked the third year in the last five years when the growth rate of the leather and footwear industry remained negative.
“Slump in exports has been observed in leather only, not in footwear. Falling exports is a blessing in disguise, as we have more raw materials to make footwear,” Puran Dawar, President, Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber (AFMEC), told Financial Express Online. He added that the decrease in leather exports in the past few years is primarily due to a lack in demand in the European and Chinese market — two of the major territories where Indian goods are sold.
Leather is a labour-oriented industry, which demands a certain minimum amount of investment for manufacturing. China, therefore, has been switching to alternatives to cut costs, Puran Dawar. Another reason for the deteriorating leather market is the downward trend of using leather made apparels in the fashion industry, he said.
Rising demand for synthetic footwear has resulted as a successful alternative for the leather products. Due to awareness of global warming and better scope of designs in synthetic products, many countries, including China, have aggressively changed its preference from leather to synthetic.
The silver lining
However, exports of footwear can still find hope as the demand for footwear, the value-added product of leather, is still prominent. Indian leather industry has many competitive advantages as the country has an abundant source of raw materials.
- 20 per cent of the world’s cattle and buffalo, and 11 per cent of the world’s goat and sheep population are found in India, according to Council for Leather Exports.
- Around 12.9 per cent of the world’s leather production of hides and skins, and 9 per cent of the global footwear production take place in India.
- Leather industry in India is among the top ten foreign exchange earners for the country.
- Leather industry also accounts for around 40 lakh jobs in India, mostly from the weaker sections of the society.