Exports of U.S. hide, skin 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 percent 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 (hides that have been preserved using brine solutions) increased 12 percent in value to $1.85 billion. Wet blue cattle hide exports (hides that have undergone the first stages of leather tanning) expanded 27 percent to nearly $800 million in value. Pig and sow skin exports likewise saw an increase in value of 15 percent 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 percent to $1.1 billion, and wet blue exports jumped 7 percent to $282 million. The U.S. is the number one supplier of raw materials to China’s booming 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 percent, 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.

Source: U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association