US - Exports of United States hide, skin and leather products have continued the record-setting pace from 2013, marking one of the most successful periods the industry has seen to date.
Through June 2014, the industry has exported more than $1.43 billion worth of US cattle hides, pig skins, and semi-processed wet blue leather products (hides that have undergone the first stages of leather tanning.) This represents a 6.7 per cent increase over the $1.34 billion exported during the same period in 2013.
US hides and skins companies – including producers, processors, brokers and dealers – regularly export more than 90 per cent of total US production and are one of the top raw materials suppliers to the global leather manufacturing industry.
According to US Department of Agriculture statistics, US exports of wet salted cattle hides (cattle hides that have been preserved using brine solutions) increased four per cent in value to more than $955 million.
China was the largest buyer of these products, with imports valued at $619 million, a seven per cent increase over the same period in 2013.
Taiwan has likewise seen a seven per cent increase over 2013 levels to $68 million. Most major leather tanning markets saw US export values increase, including Mexico, the European Union (EU), Thailand and Vietnam.
The exception was South Korea, the second largest importer of US wet salted cattle hides, which decreased 11 per cent in value to $142 million.
Wet blue cattle hides also continued to increase in value. Through June, total exports of US wet blue products were just over $451 million in value, a 13 per cent increase over 2013.
Several US firms have increasingly shifted their focus from exporting raw materials to semi-process wet blue products in an effort to increase value and maximize gains.
China, again, is the largest importer of these products, taking in $168 million worth (a four per cent increase over 2013), while the EU, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico and the Dominican Republic account for the remainder.
Despite increasing export values, the US hides and skins industry faces a shortage of available supplies as cattle slaughter rates have decreased approximately seven per cent below 2013 levels. This continues a multi-year trend of reduced slaughter rates and cattle hide availability.
US pig and sow skins, used largely to make leather for shoe lining, dropped eight per cent in value to $27 million through June.
Mexico is the largest importer of the product, taking in $13 million. The US industry faces market access restrictions for pig and sow skins in China, the largest leather producing country in the world.
“The hide, skin and leather industry in the US continues to cement its reputation as an agricultural export engine, despite ongoing challenges related to cattle hide supplies, pig skin market access barriers, and uncertain conditions in key leather manufacturing sectors,” said Stephen Sothmann, President of the US Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA).
“It is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of US firms.”
TheMeatSite News Desk
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