Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
THE Zimbabwe Leather Collective (ZLC), in partnership with ZimTrade, has set its sights on vigorously marketing crocodile skin products as the industry moves to help local manufacturers do business in a sustainable manner to boost export revenue.
Already, ZLC has produced a product catalogue of crocodile skin manufactured products with the aim of opening up more opportunities for commercial trading. In the inaugural product directory, emphasis has been placed on the need for manufacturers to partner Government in the promotion of a sustainable way of using crocodile skin.
Bulawayo-based companies that have been put in the catalogue include Millennium Footwear Goodhope Leather, Book Set Leather Works, Safari Leather, Tana Africa and the country’s major skin processor, Zambezi Tanners.
Manufactures had for long complained of challenges when selling their products to the international market, with stiff competition from the Zambia and Mozambican markets. Leading leather manufacturer, Millennium Footwear’s managing director Mr Stuart Simali told Sunday News Business that the product catalogue produced by ZLC and ZimTrade will go a long way in opening export markets.
“We applaud the support that we are getting as leather manufacturers. Getting new export markets is not easy but with the recent marketing strategies put by ZimTrade and the Zimbabwe Leather Collective, there is a positive outlook,” said Mr Simali.
Millennium Footwear has over the years exported exotic leather footwear to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries and Europe.
Mr Simali said demand for local crocodile skin products has also put pressure on local manufactures to up their standards.
“With the help of associations such as the Zimbabwe Leather Collective, we have hope of competing favourably on the international market. It calls for us as an industry to start changing the way we do business, meaning our products have to be top-notch,” he said.
Mr Simali said the country’s leather industry players needed the collective approach by ZimTrade and ZLC so as to improve the sharing of market intelligence. Manufacturers have been calling upon the Government to offer incentives so as to cushion the sector.
Leather product exports, in particular those derived from crocodile skin, are likely to increase in the better part of the year according to ZimTrade’s chief executive officer Mr Allan Mujuru, in an interview last week.
“It is high time we get the leather industry awakened. For years the sector was exposed to challenges but we now see that the Chinese market is opening up for local products,” he said.
ZimTrade has identified investment opportunities in the local leather sector and has called for foreign direct investment so as to reposition the industry as an export giant.
Crocodile skin is sourced from the Crocodile Farmers Association of Zimbabwe who breed the Nile crocodile. The country is the second largest exporter of crocodile skins, after the United States. Zimbabwe’s crocodile management, as ZLC put it, is internationally acclaimed and this has positioned the leather sector for rapid growth, bolstered by the high demand for locally made crocodile skin products.