Leather industry

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Leather Industry

Since almost every country in the world has its own livestock for meat production and dairy products, leather is also produced and processed in almost every country in the world. The level of technology development varies from country to country. The higher the level of education in the countries, the more modern the tanning technology, the stricter the work and environmental regulations and their monitoring, the more sustainable and environmentally friendly leather production is.

In the strictest sense of the term, the leather industry covers the preserving of the rawhide after the slaughterhouse and the tanneries which process the raw skins into durable leathers.

In the widest sense, the "leather industry" also includes the companies which then process the skins into ready-for-use articles. These include the shoe manufacturers, the clothing manufacturers, the manufacturers of car upholstery and the furniture industry. But also the manufacturers of belts, bags and many other leather products.

The following figures are from leather magazines, interviews and the internet. Since the figures are partly based on estimates or come from countries that do not "record the data accurately" or estimate the figures or the base data are recorded differently, the figures can only be used as indications. Depending on the source or type of recording, the data are not always the same. Nevertheless, the figures give an approximate overview of the situation and development of the leather industry.


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Tanneries - Leather production

The World Statistical Compendium for Raw Hides and Skins (FAO 1998) quantifies the world's leather production volume in the 1990s to about 463,000 tons or a billion square metres. The overwhelming majority is cow leather. 640 million square metres of which was processed into a total of 4.5 billion pairs of shoes.


Zebus are a widespread cattle breed in Brazil.


The leather industry in 2005 was worth about 45 billion US dollars, of which only 25.6 billion dollars were spent on finished leather articles (55% shoes, 15% gloves and clothing, 20% cars and furniture). The most important supplier countries for leather, which dominated 61% of the market, were China, India, Brazil and the USA.

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According to a newspaper of 15.09.2011, 1.8 billion square meters of leather were produced annually for 40 billion US dollars. 500,000 people are employed.

According to Pro-Leder 02/14, worldwide production of surface leather increased by about 50% between 1990 and 2011 and by 9.4 to 14.0 billion qfs.

85% of the leather produced worldwide is chrome-tanned (2014). In 1950 still 75% of the manufactured leather was used for shoes. Nowadays it is only about 50%.

Leather use (estimation) 2021 2013
Shoe production 50% 54%
Furniture leather 9% 13%
Car leather 17% 11%
Clothing leather 14% 10%
Others 14% 8%

In 2012, China had a leather production (only large-scale enterprises with annual sales of 3.17 million US dollars) of 750 million square metres and produced 4.5 billion shoes (2010 4.2 billion). China is the world's largest leather producer and shoe manufacturer. China produced 57.7 million pieces of leather clothing in 2012 (62.37 million in 2010) and 2010 780 million bags and luggage. The turnover of the leather sector in China in 2012 amounted to 168.8 billion US dollars.

China was the largest shoe manufacturer in the world in 2015 and also was the largest consumer with 53% of all footwear sold worldwide. According to statistics from 2014, China produces around 8 billion of the world's 14 billion pairs of shoes (all materials including leather) each year. According to statistics from 2016, 23 billion shoes were produced in 2015. In 2010, China still produced 4.19 billion shoes. Of these, one billion pairs of shoes worth 10.4 billion US dollars were exported.


Leather in India (photo www.feinleder-hoffmann.com).


For decades there has been a shift in leather production to the developing and emerging countries. This is due to the more favourable costs in these countries and a weaker environmental awareness. On the other hand, the prejudice against tanneries in the industrialized countries is also a reason for falling leather production.

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Interior of a leather boot production in Jordan


Car industry

For many decades, the number of vehicles worldwide and thus the proportion of vehicles with full leather trim or partial leather interiors has increased. In addition, the proportion of cheaper and medium-priced vehicles with leather parts has increased in recent decades. Luxury class vehicles without leather interiors are a rarity and end up having a lower resale value. In the US, the share of leather-seated vehicles increased from 29% to 48% between 2001 and 2017.

In 2017, 160,000 leather hides were daily processed for the car industry. 73% were chrome-tanned leather and 27% were chrome-free leather. 34.7% of the car industry's crusts were from South America, 27.8% from Europe, 19.2% from Asia, 14.3% from Central and North America and 4% from Africa. Brazil has a share of 22%, Mexico 15%, Italy 14%, China 13%, Argentina 10% and Austria 5%.

In 2017 Mexico (28%), China and Italy (14%), Austria (8%) and Germany, South Korea, South Africa and the United Kingdom (4%) produced the highest share of finished leather items. Brazil produced only 1% of the finished leather used for automobiles.

The most important finished car leather producer companies in 2017: Lear (including Eagle Ottawa) 19%, GST 12%, Bader 10%, Hokuyo 8%, Boxmark 8%, Passubio 6%, Rino Mastrotto and Scottish Leather Group each 4%.

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When cutting leather, the maximum possible is optimized to keep the leather cutting waste as low as possible.


Videos about leather production

leather production in a modern tannery.

Brazilian leather industry.

The leather production with tannins of the oak.

The production of chamois leather.

Additional information