Coronavirus outbreak takes heavy toll on India’s leather export trade
In order to process the raw hides and skins and remove the hair from them, a chemical named Sodium Sulphide is needed. At least 50% of this chemical was imported from China. But that has totally stopped.Updated: Mar 06, 2020 22:29 IST
The coronavirus epidemic that has spread to around 75 countries across the globe has started taking a heavy toll on India’s leather export trade worth Rs 36,000 crore.
“On the one hand raw hides and skins are piled up in tanneries and are on the verge of rotting because of shortage of chemicals that are imported from China to process them. Manufacturers are not being able to give final shape to the products such as bags and wallets because of shortage of accessories that used to be imported from China,” said Zia Nafis, joint secretary of the Calcutta Leather Complex Tanners Association, which controls the trade in eastern India.
In order to process the raw hides and skins and remove the hair from them, a chemical named Sodium Sulphide is needed. At least 50% of this chemical was imported from China. But that has totally stopped.
“There is a huge scarcity of this chemical and we are not being able to process the raw hides and skin. These hides would start rotting in the next one or two weeks,” said Javed Iqbal, regional chairman (central region) of Council for Leather Exports in Kanpur.
CLE is the apex trade promotion organisation of the leather industry in India and controls the Indian leather export industry worth Rs 36,000 crore. At least 41% of this export comprises leather footwear while other leather goods comprise around 25%.
Manufacturers are now trying to procure this chemical from European countries at higher prices. Those associated with the trade said that earlier they used to import a kilo of Sodium Sulphide from China at Rs 35. But now they are trying to procure it from European countries at Rs 80 per kilo.
“Same goes with the other items - buttons, zippers, pullers and adhesives. At least 64 items are needed to give a shoe its final shape. Most of these items were imported from China. This has totally stopped. Now we are trying to procure these items from European countries at much higher rates,” said Iqbal.
What is worse is that consignments of finished products that have already been exported by Indian manufacturers have got stuck at various seaports and airports in countries like China, Germany, Italy and USA.
“A few days ago I had sent a consignment to Italy. But over the last ten days at least the consignment is stuck at the Malpensa Airport in Milan. The importer said that he is not being able to reach the airport and take the consignment. I am bearing the cost,” said Nafis, who is an exporter himself.