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Exports of U.S. hides, skins and leather products set new records in 2013, marking one of the most successful years for the industry to date. Hides and skins producers, processors and brokers regularly export over 90% of total U.S. production and are one of the top raw materials suppliers to the global leather manufacturing sector.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, U.S exports for wet salted cattle hides increased 12% in value to $1.85 billion. Wet-blue cattle hide exports expanded 27% to nearly $800 million in value. Pig and sow skin exports likewise saw an increase in value of 15% to $57 million, despite facing market access restrictions in key leather producing countries.
“The U.S continues to be the world’s preferred supplier of raw and semi-processed materials for leather production.” said Stephen Sothmann, President of the U.S Hide, Skin and Leather Association, a division of the American Meat Institute. “Though the label may state ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Italy’, the hide or skin used to make the leather likely came from a Texas steer, a California dairy cow, an Iowa sow. Manufacturers throughout the world prefer to use U.S materials in their shoes, handbags, upholstery and automobiles.”
China is the largest importer of U.S hides and skins products. In 2013, the value of wet salted U.S hides exported to China increased 23% to $1.1 billion, and wet-blue exports jumped 7% to $282 million. The U.S is the number one supplier of raw materials to China’s leather manufacturing industry and the relationship between U.S and Chinese leather companies is one of the most important in the global industry. Hides and skins are the third largest agricultural good the U.S exports to China.
Since 2009, the U.S. hide, skin and leather industry has increased the overall value of its exports by 90%, answering President Obama’s call under the National Export Initiative (NEI) to double U.S exports in five years. If current trends continue in 2014, it is expected that the industry will surpass the NEI goal.