East African leather suppliers expand sales, business linkages with Indian buyers

13 March 2018
ITC News

Leather suppliers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda struck deals with international buyers worth over $500,000 during B2B meetings in India arranged by the International Trade Centre last month.

Connecting suppliers in East Africa with buyers in India is a core component of ITC’s Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project. For the second consecutive year, the SITA project team fielded a delegation of micro, small, and medium-sized enteprises (MSMEs) from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda at the India International Leather Fair (IILF), a key leather industry trade fair, held from 1-3 February in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in the country’s south.

Organised by the Council for Leather Exports (CLE), a government-affiliated leather export promotion body, in association with the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation, IILF 2018 saw the participation of over 475 Indian and overseas exhibitors from 22 countries. Under the theme “Sustain Sustainability of Leather & Allied Industry,” the exhibition showcased products including finished and semi-finished leather, leather garments, leather goods, footwear, machinery, chemicals and fashion accessories. The 12-strong SITA delegation included representatives from seven East African tanneries as well as government and industry stakeholders.

In his address to inaugurate the trade fair, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu called on the sector to upgrade and modernise infrastructure. ‘Leather is a focus industry for India but we cannot do things the same way our forefathers did,’ he said, unveiling a $450 million package of support to strengthen India’s leather industry.

CLE Chairman Mukhtarul Amin noted in his own remarks to the conference that while India produced a large quantity of raw leather, the country’s leather industry was ‘increasingly resorting to imports to get certain special types of leathers and also to meet the shortage in domestic supply.’

On the sidelines of the fair, SITA’s East African delegation participated in a raw material sourcing B2B meet organised by the CLE, which brought together 25 overseas suppliers of raw hides, semi-finished and finished leather with Indian and international buyers.

Prior to the event in Chennai, the SITA delegation spent two days in Kolkata, West Bengal, visiting tanneries and holding B2B meetings with tanners and leather manufacturers from eastern India.

Ramesh Kumar Juneja, the CLE’s top official in the region, said the visit to Kolkata was particularly beneficial for businesses there that were not attending the IILF in Chennai. ‘Following this introduction, the Kolkata CLE chapter is planning to visit East Africa later this year to assess opportunities,’ he said.

The B2B sessions in Chennai and Kolkata together generated orders worth over $500,000, for products ranging from wet blue leather to crust leather and finished leather. Several additional deals are under negotiation.

‘This year, the response has been really good. East Africa is making its mark and it is going to get better each year. IILF helps our companies to understand the market dynamics, and our continued participation in this Fair is not just about presence, it enhances our trustworthiness as prospective suppliers,’ said Yassin Awale, leather sector advisor to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.

‘Strengthening the leather value chain in Uganda is a top priority for the government. Participation in trade fairs such as the IILF helps our businesses to understand Indian and global leather industry standards – the business benefits will definitely follow,’ remarked John Musinguzi, senior presidential advisor on investment to the President of Uganda.

‘The meetings during IILF and in Kolkata have catalysed further transactions and investment decisions since the first mission was undertaken by the Indian leather industry to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in 2016,’ said Jarmila Sarda Souckova, SITA’s investment expert. ‘We have had quick follow-up visits since the second mission in December 2017 and exciting news is on the anvil, so watch this space.’

The recent sales and leads come on top of the US$1,052,000 in orders that have been placed by Indian buyers with East African suppliers supported by SITA since 2016.

To read more about SITA missions, visit Voices of SITA.