India’s leather exports back on track after Covid-driven disruption

Leather shipments from India have rebounded in the first two months of this fiscal year and the momentum is likely to sustain.

June 22, 2021

India’s exports of leather and leather products jumped over fourfold in April-May 2021 from a year earlier.

Leather exports rose to US$641.72 million in April-May 2021 from US$146.79 million in the same period last year.

Exports had fallen 27.4% in 2020-21 to US$3.68 billion from US$5.07 billion in 2019-20.

Footwear accounts for half of the exports, followed by leather goods and accessories with a share of 25.65%.

India’s leather exports are back on the growth track with outbound shipments showing a steep rebound during the current fiscal year after being impacted last year by the pandemic. According to the industry body Council for Leather Exports (CLE), India shipped leather, leather products and footwear worth US$641.72 million in April-May 2021. 

This is four-and-a-half times more than the US$146.79 million worth of exports in the corresponding period last year, when India was under a nationwide lockdown for over a month to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. CLE chairman Sanjay Leekha said the industry body expects the growth trend to continue in the coming months after a prolonged period of slowdown caused by the pandemic, according to a PTI report.

The pandemic also hurt exports for the entire 2020-21, with shipments falling 27.4% to US$3.68 billion from US$5.07 billion the previous year, according to the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S). Footwear and footwear components made up 51% of India’s total leather exports in 2020-21 with shipments worth US$1.88 billion, as per the DGCI&S. This is followed by leather goods and accessories with a share of 25.65%, finished leather with 10.27%, leather garments 8.03% and saddlery and harness with a share of 5.06%.

India has several advantages that have positioned it among the most prominent leather players in the world. Thus, it has plenty of raw materials with 20% of the world’s cattle and buffalo as well as skilled manpower, innovative technology, and increasing industry compliance to global environmental standards. 

However, there is still a vast global market that India can tap into. The size of the global leather goods industry is projected to increase to US$306.1 billion by 2027 from an estimated US$241.3 billion in 2020, growing at an annualised pace of 3.5%, according to market intelligence firm ReportLinker

To be sure, India already has a number of schemes and programmes to help the leather industry. For instance, the Indian Footwear and Accessories Development Programme has played a vital role in modernisation and technological upgradation of production units and skilling of workforce. The CLE is also doing its bit. It organised 12 virtual buyer-seller meets during 2020-21 in 17 countries and has planned about 20 events this year. It is expected that with international trade moving to e-commerce platforms, India’s market access in this sector will grow more rapidly.