WASHINGTON – The US hide, skin and leather industry posted a $40 million increase to exports of cattle hides, pig skins and semi-processed leather products in 2017. Exports totaled $2.08 billion for the year.

US producers, processors, brokers and dealers of hides and skins regularly export more than 90 percent of total US 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 US agriculture and exports,” said Stephen Sothmann, president of the US 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.”

US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) data states US exports of wet salted cattle hides (cattle hides that have been preserved using brine solutions) reached nearly $1.48 billion in value, a 6 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 7 percent from 2016, totaling $656 million in value.

Market process for US hides and wet blues dipped in 2017 and were offset by a 5 percent increase in cattle slaughter for the year, making more hides available at a lower price per piece.  

The largest buyer of cattle hides was China with imports valued at over $871 million. Italy was the largest destination for wet blue cattle hides with imports valued at over $216 million. Larger export markets also include South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam.

US pigskin exports rose 48 percent in value to $48.6 million for the year. Mexico was the largest market for US pigskins in 2017, with Thailand and Taiwan rounding out the top three destinations. For the year, Mexico, Thailand and Taiwan accounted for the majority of US pigskin exports. Pigskin exports to China saw significant gains with an increase of $1.4 million in value. 

The export data continues to show slower global leather consumption due to the deep market correction in 2015.  A variety of factors, including reduced leather utilization in footwear globally, have pushed overall leather demand lower.

The industry is currently paying close attention to the global trade landscape given its dependence on foreign markets.

“With China and Mexico being two of our largest export markets, the US 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 US industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace, particularly as formidable competitors finalize free trade agreements that could place the US 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.”