Latin America is reportedly the second largest footwear producing region in the world after Asia, producing more than 1.5 billion pairs in 2022 and accounting for 7% of global production.

Speaking at the event, Executive President of Brazilian Association of Footwear Industries (Abicalçados) Haroldo Ferreira said: “We have many guidelines in common, such as unfair competition with Asian countries, the problem of digital platforms and the breakdown of retail, sustainability, among others. The meeting was important for the associations to jointly discuss ways to improve the competitiveness of the footwear industry on the continent.”

He alleged that unfair competition from Asian countries was a major issue and that only Brazil, Argentina and Peru have anti-dumping defence mechanisms to protect themselves.

In 2022, Brazil produced 849 million pairs of footwear and exported 143 million and is the largest industry in the region.

Maurício Battaglia, President of the Chamber of Footwear Industries of the State of Guanajuato (CICEG) and the National Chamber of Footwear Industry (CANAICAL) in Mexico, also highlighted cheap imports as an issue alongside the recovery following the pandemic.

He said: “The year 2021 saw an uneven recovery and in 2022, despite the challenges, we had growth. Even so, we are still 17% below 2019 levels.”

Sustainability was a key issue at the event as well. Colombian Association of Footwear, Leather and Manufacturers (Acicam) Vice President Wilian Parrado said that Acicam is studying the creation of sustainability certification mechanisms, following the example of Brazil.

He said: “We learned a lot with the presentation of Sustainable Origin. Today, sustainability is a demand not only from the government, but also from private investors.”

The next edition of the Latin American Footwear Forum will be held in São Paulo, Brazil, in May 2024.