The United States hide, skin and leather industry exported more than $2.08 billion in cattle hides, pig skins and semi-processed leather products in 2017, representing a $40 million increase compared to 2016.
U.S. hides and skins companies – including producers, processors, brokers and dealers – regularly export more than 90 percent of total U.S. production of these products and are one of the top raw materials suppliers to the global leather manufacturing industry.
“The hides and skins industry is a major success story for U.S. agriculture and exports” said Stephen Sothmann, president of the U.S. Hide, Skin and Leather Association (USHSLA). “The 2017 export figures demonstrate the industry continues to thrive even in the face of significant global political and economic headwinds.”
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, U.S. exports of wet salted cattle hides (cattle hides that have been preserved using brine solutions) reached nearly $1.48 billion in value, a six percent increase from 2016 levels. Exports of wet blue cattle hides (semi-processed hides that have undergone the first stages of leather tanning), meanwhile, fell seven percent from 2016, totaling $656 million in value.
Lower market prices for U.S. hides and wet blues in 2017 were offset by a five percent increase in cattle slaughter for the year, making more hides available at a lower price per piece.
China was the largest buyer salted cattle hides, with imports valued at more than $871 million, while Italy was the single largest destination for wet blue cattle hides, with imports valued at more than $216 million in 2017. Other large export markets included South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam.
U.S. pigskin exports showed significant gains, rising 48 percent in value to $48.6 million for the year. Mexico was the largest market for U.S. pigskins in 2017, with Thailand and Taiwan rounding out the top three destinations. Together, Mexico, Thailand and Taiwan accounted for the vast majority of all U.S. pigskin exports. Significant gains were also seen in exports to China, which increased to $1.4 million in value. The U.S. regained full market access for pigskin exports to China in 2015.
The export data continues to show global leather consumption remains sluggish following the deep market correction in 2015. A variety of factors, including reduced leather utilization in footwear globally, have pushed overall leather demand lower.
Given its dependence on trade with foreign markets for its continued strength and livelihood, the industry is also closely monitoring the global political situation and trade environment.
“With China and Mexico being two of our largest export markets, the U.S. hides and skins industry is concerned about the political rhetoric surrounding international trade,” Sothmann noted. “We hope that any policy revisions to the existing international trading system will not negatively impact a thriving U.S. industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace, particularly as formidable competitors finalize free trade agreements that could place the U.S. industry at a competitive disadvantage. We intend to work with the Administration and our trading partners to ensure the industry bolsters its access to both emerging and reliable markets.”