Uganda's leather industry gets a new lease of life thanks to State House

Mar 02, 2024

The reports indicate the market for finished leather products is growing astronomically.

Uganda's leather industry gets a new lease of life thanks to State House

Herbert Musoke
Journalist @New Vision

Uganda is endowed with great potential in hides and skins, which for long has not been fully exploited leading to losses in revenue by the billions.

Research shows that globally the leather market accounted for $419.3 billion in 2021 and is estimated to reach $708.7 billion by 2030 according to Acumen Research and Consultancy; a global provider of the latest insightful market research reports and consulting services focusing on different industries.

Uganda stands a high chance of benefiting from this revenue judging by its livestock population which stands at 14.2 million cattle, 16 million goats, and 4.5 million sheep according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2018.

Dr. Patrick Ssekimpi, the chairman of the Dairy Farmers Network, a farmer organization that brings together dairy cattle farmers in Uganda says that livestock farmers are only paid for meat as buyers only use a computer for how much meat the cow, goat or sheep will produce.

Also, hides and skins have been at a low price as a kilogram of wet hide goes for shs00. However, with the completion of the leather industry, livestock farmers will increase their earnings as they will also compute the cost of the hide and skin at the time of selling the animal.

According to the Uganda Leather Value Chain Strategy 2015-2025 report signed by the former minister of trader, industry and cooperatives Amalia Kyambadde, over 2.4m cows and 6.1m goats and sheep are slaughtered annually.

This thus provides the raw material of about 1.4 million cattle hides, 3.1 million goat and 0.68 million sheep skins, thus providing enough hides and skins to sustain the leather industry.

Why the leather industry

The reports explain that losses are incurred due to the resultant production of low-quality hides and skins, which fetches lower prices in the international markets. 

As it was reported, the prevalence of pre-, peri and post-slaughter defects was very high in Uganda this renders more than 60% of hides and skins produced to be categorized as grade three or worse.

The reports indicate the market for finished leather products is growing astronomically. For example, footwear importations grew from $6m in 2001 to $35.5m by 2013. 

Also, the exportation of wet blue hides and skins was costing the country revenue as Uganda lost $83m between 2001 and 2013.

Over 95% of hides and skins have been exported as wet blue and crust entails forgone opportunities with regard to value addition, which could have been attained in Uganda like employment creation, and foreign currency earning opportunities.

According to the report, based on the hides and skins production of 2012, the Uganda leather value chain has the potential to reach a minimum direct value of USD 270 million per annum.

Kawumu leather industry 

To improve Uganda’s earnings from hides and skins, in 2021, President Yoweri Museveni launched the Kawumu Leather Industry Uganda. The factory whose chief executive officer is Col. Patrick B Kihuta, is located in Kawumu villageMawale parish, Makulubita sub-county, Luwero. It occupies 10 acres with a plan to expand and cover an additional 10 acres to set up a leather village. 

The objectives of the factory include adding value to hides and skins, transforming them into quality leather and leather products, promoting the production of leather products to promote import substitution but also promoting exportation of leather materials and products, creating employment and protecting the environment, among others.

“This is all aimed at creating and adding value on the hides and skins using skilled manpower, technology adoption coupled with environmentally-conscious processes to produce high quality finished leather and leather products,” explains Col. Kihuta.

This initiative would hitherto enable Uganda to also participate in the global market share of leather as well as create jobs for the youth as it currently employs 120 workers including bother experts and casuals and it is estimated to employ over 1,000 workers in the next five years through exploiting science and technology using the tool kits of technology adoption.

The factory is soon to be upgraded to industry by installation of another production line of finished products like shoes, hand and safari bags, ballots, and jackets among others. 

“Currently the factory only produces over 40 types of leather types used by other partners to produce finished products like shoes, car seats, furniture, belts, wallets, balls, jackets, bags and carpets, among others as exhibited at the Harvest Money Expo,” he says.

The business expansion strategy is multifaceted and hinges on the “Buy Uganda, Build Uganda” (BUBU) policy, market penetration strategy, research and development, among others, based on which our core values like innovation and creativity are enhanced for business sustainability.

Collecting hides and skins 

The losses the country has incurred due to the prevalence of pre-, peri and post-slaughter defects are attributed to the use of poor-quality slaughter systems, shortage of suitable tools, equipment and machinery.

Therefore, the industry is collaborating with the City Abattoir to train the butcher men on the best practices that eliminate damage to the hides and skins during slaughtering, storage, preservation and transportation.

What others say

Martin Ssekajja, livestock farmer at Nakifuma: This industry will bring about many changes in the livestock industry ranging from the rearing systems, transportation of animals, and their treatment among others such that the quality of hides and skins are kept at its best.

Fatuma Asiimwe, farmer: There is a need to create a collection centre, especially for the goat and sheep skins as many of them are being wasted in the villages which would be a good revenue source not only for the farmers but also for the country.

Jackson Masiga, farmer: There is a lot of potential in the leather industry if Uganda can streamline the activities. To get the best out of the industry it has to start with us farmers because a well looked after animal is the one that will produce a quality hide and skin.

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