Unbridled export of various types of animal skins is beginning to hurt shoe makers in Aba, Lagos, Onitsha and other parts of Nigeria.
Goat, sheep and other types of animal skins from Nigeria have become attractive to shoe makers and leather firms in China, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and other parts of the world, forcing processors of animal skins in the country to sell the commodities to merchants from these countries to make higher profits.
Leather firms in Europe, China and the United States see Nigeria’s animal skins as very strong for shoe-making and pay exporters in foreign currency.
Given the weaker state of naira against major currencies, exporters of animal skins earn a lot of money from the business.
However, this is affecting local shoe makers who now struggle to get locally processed animal skins from the northern part of the country. The majority of them have resorted to buying skins from other parts of Africa and China.
Shoe makers argue that it makes little sense to source and spend the scarce foreign exchange to buy raw materials that are locally available from abroad.
“Once the tanneries are through with production, they export the entire leather to the detriment of local leather works manufacturers. This is affecting the finished leather sector in Lagos, Onitsha and especially the Aba areas,” Ken Anyanwu, national secretary, Association of Leather and Allied Industrialists of Nigeria (ALAIN), complained to BusinessDay recently.
One of the shoe makers in Aba said, “Animal skins from the North are often very good. But where we can no longer get them, we have now resolved to source them from other West African countries.
“But the problem we also have is that even though we export leather to these foreign countries, getting their adhesives is not possible. We often resort to buying Chinese adhesives which are not as good as those of Europe.”
Real Sector Watch gathered that the animal skins are usually tagged ‘finished leather’ in order to qualify for export incentives such as the revised Export Expansion Grant (EEG).
In the third quarter (Q3) 2017 non-oil export report released by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo, CEO of NEPC, expressed worry over this situation.
“There are some areas of concern which need to be looked into in the interest of Nigeria as whole. One is the exportation of various types of skins tagged as ‘processed leather’,” Awolowo said.
He added that there were massive shipments of wood (‘processed wood’ and charcoal) within the period, which was detrimental to the environment.
“One out of every 10 shipments from Nigeria during the period was traced to the above products,” he stated.
In Nigeria’s 2014 non-oil export data, the Netherlands bought sheep, goat skins and leather worth $ 622,407, while Italy, known widely as producer of quality shoes and leather products, spent $ 355.63 million buying these commodities from Nigeria.
Also, Spain bought the commodities worth $ 51.67 million while India spent $ 24 million buying them from the country. In a similar fashion, China, world’s fastest-growing country, bought Nigeria’s leather worth $ 93.8 million. Incidentally, this was the only major non-oil product bought by China from Nigeria, according to data. The situation has almost been similar before and after then.
Evidence shows that Italian and Spanish leather products, regarded as superior to Nigerian counterparts, are in various Nigerian markets and are often patronised by the rich class as they are expensive and durable. Most of the leather inputs used in making these foreign leather products come from Nigeria’s North, according to research.