Lilongwe – The Leather Industries Association of Malawi (LIAMA) says every year the country loses US$100 million in exportation of leather products without any value addition.
According to the COMESA Leather and Leather Products Institute (LLPI), Malawi has a population of 990, 000 cattle, 213, 000 sheep, 3, 953, 000 and around 570, 000 donkeys, rabbits and pigs.
Most of the harvested skins and hides are exported unprocessed, costing the country millions in potential revenue annually.
An LLPI study shows that the Southern African country produces 200,000 pieces of cattle hides yearly, 100,000 from sheep, and two million from goats.
Despite having tanning capacity of 300 hides and 3,000 skins a day, as well as to produce 77,000 square feet of finished leather yearly, the value chain is disjointed and raw exports dominate the sector.
The Chinese government recently extended support amounting to US$5 million to help establish better tanneries and other processing facilities in Malawi.
LIAMA chairperson Mr Chrispin Amasi said, “LIAMA is mobilising animal farmers to yield maximum benefits from animal hides by starting adding value to skins from legal wild life trophies or domesticated animals.”
LIAMA was established with support from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Institute.
The institute’s board chairperson Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu said the leather industry could transform Malawi’s economy.
“We have good raw materials but the problem is that we do not have that capacity to produce high quality product that can compete on the international market. By working and putting those small resources together it would enable us achieve a lot,” she said.
Malawian leather and hides have solid markets in Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe regionally; and in China, Italy, Greece and Portugal globally.
However, LLPI said the country had limited formal knowledge in hides, skins and leather and inadequate capacity to unlock the full potential of value addition. It also called on the government to craft and implement policies that support the sector, and enforce regulations on illegal trade in hides and skins.