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Future Trends in the World Leather and Leather Products Industry and Trade

This study assesses the worldwide prospects of the leather and leather products industry in the coming
decade. It examines the major underlying trends of recent years and how they are expected to evolve
in the short to medium term. In its attempt to provide a thorough picture of the leather sector, the report
covers its various aspects: the availability of raw material, the tanning industry, and the manufacture of foot-
wear and other leather products. The basic intention is to help discern prevailing trends in global trade and
to support efforts to design an effective role for organizations in the industrial development arena. The
findings and forecasts published here are meant to be indicative rather than definitive and to form a
basis for further surveys and studies.
The need to compile this report arose out of the 16th session of the UNIDO Leather and Leather
Products Industry Panel held in Brazil in May 2007. The panel recommended that UNIDO undertake
a comprehensive study on the future development of the world leather and leather products industry,
a study that would cover demand, technology, production, and trade. Consequently, the UNIDO study
provides an analysis of the contemporary demand for leather products (footwear, leather goods, gloves,
leather garments, sports goods, upholstery, etc.) vis-à-vis the availability of resources (raw hides and
skins, manufacturing capacities, skilled labour, knowledge, support industries, and services). It also
contains information on other important aspects of the leather industry: trade statistics, the geographic
distribution of production, technology developments, physical infrastructure, environmental conditions,
and social aspects involved in the production of leather.
This report is a follow-up to Worldwide Study of the Leather and Leather Products Industry, which was
the outcome of an exhaustive survey carried out by UNIDO in the 1970s. It is intended to assist the
Organization in the formulation of future assistance programmes and in detecting areas where further
study of various kinds may be useful.
For this type of study, it is no longer enough to track the trends of recent years and to predict their future
course. There are distinct areas of potential discontinuity that need to be taken into account. One is
the fact that the world population is still growing rapidly, and when this is combined with issues of climate
change and other environmental concerns, it is clear that trends have to be predicted tentatively, taking into
consideration possible drastic changes. Issues of population growth and climate change have inevitable
implications for livestock, as eating habits change with development and land for rearing animals
becomes scarce. A second factor that needs to be taken into account is the rise of the so-called BRIC
economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Their dominant position in the labour-intensive textile
and leather industries makes it difficult for other countries to follow the development path taken by
most Asian nations in the past 50 years. While this report attempts to treat these questions in some
detail, some of the consequences of recent changes are still unforeseeable. Nevertheless, the findings
in this study are expected to be useful to all those involved in setting priorities for the years ahead and
in dealing with current and future problems.

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