Russia is its fifth-biggest supplier, according to Italian Tanners’ Association, UNIC.

On February 6, Russia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry posted a statement on its website saying it had added raw hides and tanned leather to a list of goods considered essential to the domestic market, which could become subject to temporary limitations or export bans.

The statement said the products were added to the list to enable limiting exports as domestic demand far outstrips supply.

It followed an announcement on its website last year of a draft resolution to ban exports of raw hides and skins for six months. It was not clear whether the resolution was ever passed.

According to Reuters UNIC says its members are very worried about a possible ban, and calculates a six-month break in supply would cost Italy’s tanneries €115 million ($159 million) in lost revenue.

Angelo Gerolimetto, co-owner and director of the Scamosceria del Brenta tannery in Vicenza, said a Russian supplier had told him a ban on exporting wet-blue was highly likely to come into force on May 1.

“This is a real problem,” said Gerolimetto, imports from Russia around 70% of the wet-blue it uses before selling on to primarily shoemakers in Europe and Asia.

“I fear that something like this could place further pressure on raw material prices, which are already high,” said Gerolimetto, and he was worrying about being forced to buy lower-quality hides.

The fashion industry is seen as a bright spot in an Italian economy struggling to emerge from recession. The national chamber of fashion estimates clothes, shoes and accessories will bring in revenue of €62.5 billion in 2014.

Source: Reuters