Sudan Loses Millions of Dollars by Less Concern on Leather Industry

By: Al-Hidai Ahmed

Sudan occupies first rank amongst Arab and African countries of hosting huge animal resources estimated of more than one hundred million head of livestock composed of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. In addition it also owns wildlife resources with most important leather products particularly from reptiles. Leather industry represents key economic factor in exports and it increases with multiples of animal resources. But in Sudan this industry is not given adequate concern and that makes Sudan loses millions of dollars.
The Leather industry in Sudan started in1945 following the foundation of Abdel Aziz KhlIfa Tannery in Omdurman westward of Khartoum the capital. Some other tanneries also were established in Khartoum and other main cites during different successive ruling regimes. Sudan’s first experience of leather tanning was made at Abdel Alziz Khalifa tannery. It started tanning hides for manufacturing the Military Boot at that time.
Sudan has been exporting the bulk of hides to world as raw material since 1940 and imports readymade leather products instead. This means that Sudan is losing millions of dollars that could have been earned by public treasury, local leather makers have said.
For his part a Sudanese veterinarian and PHD holder in Leather tanning who works for ministry of animal resources, Dr. Salah Mukhtar admits that there has been negligence on implementation of skin value chains. The value chains ranged from proper slaughtering process, lack of skin diseases up to thorns affecting the skin of animal. The weak observation on leather value chains according to Dr.Mukhtar has resulted in low market demand despite the fact that the Sudanese hides are potentially of high quality.
Dr. Mukhtar highlights that Sudan has competence technical cadres to observe skin value chains and train animal breeding community at the National Hides and Skin Center (NHSC) established in the country since 1945.
The Center main function is to offer scientific guidance for livestock breeders and trains slaughterers and those who are their job is to pickoff the skin form slaughtered animals. The center also is in charge of producing licenses for slaughterers and monitors their work at slaughterhouses s in accordance to leather law of 1945. Likewise the NHSC issues exported leathers certificate upon which veterinary health certificate is issued from Quarantine administration before completing customs and SSMO procedures.
However Dr.Mukhtar said the 1945 law requires amendments to cope with the new variations. He explains that the amendments are importance to fill gaps of weakness in the existing law particularly for fighting the smuggling of hides to West Africa countries through west Darfur State.
The smugglers used to smuggle air dried cattle skin to western African countries with meat still on the skin and that meat removed from the skin, canned and sold expensively, D. Mukhtar explained. Already he said leather products committee and the Sudanese Standards Metrology Organization (SSMO) have endorsed the new proposals centered on good slaughtering process, pickoff skins from the dead animal, sorting out the skins and prepare the better means of transportation.
The new proposals also focus on prevention of exporting and infiltration air dried cattle skins from Sudan through West Darfur state, argues Mukhtar. He adds that the new amendments suggested providing incentives for slaughterers who observe the right process and panelize those who violate it.
Moreover he said the proposals of the law include formation of leather Committee to work as an advisory body consists of relevance parties and that the committee could also observe sorting out good quality of leathers prepared for export.
The improvement of skins processes according to Mukhtar takes place by leather inspectors working at NHSC and in various states throughout the country where they specify the blemish and fix it. The leather blemishes include irregularity of the skin shape, bacterial rots resulting from existence of water, protein and fat in the skin, as expert Mukhtar highlights. According to Mukhtar there are mechanical blemishes as well resulting he said, from knife’s cuttings, bad pickoff skin processes,pulling the skin on the ground and breaking meats bone on the skin .
In addition to legislations problem hides quality faces political and administrative obstacle. On managerial problem Dr. Mukhtar said the transfers of Hides and Skin Administration to operate under managements of animal resources administration in the states are facing transport facilities and shortage of staff to observe skin quality at slaughterhouses and at leather agencies. He adds, slaughterhouses suffer lack of water and electricity supplies as many slaughterhouses use slab which of course according to Mukhtar were illegal.
As far as political problems as concern some respondents who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ministry of animal resources is seen in the eyes of some politicians as marginal ministry. On the contrary they said animal resources ministry must come on top of the important economical ministries. Because they said it is the ministry that makes the real money with farmers and nomads who won the real wealth in Sudan.
Meanwhile Mukhtar called upon federal and states governments to give concern in collaboration with sisterly and friendly countries and cerate partnership to establish modern slaughterhouses in Sudanese cities and at weekly markets in localities where many animal skins are produced.
Likewise he said there was a need for establishing modern tanneries and factories for leather products in various cities across Sudan to get benefit from the economic added value of leathers, achieving leather value chains and banned export of raw and semi tanned skins gradually and export leather products in forms of readymade items by the year 2024 according to strategy laid down in collaboration with the COMESA during 2015.
Historically Sudan started exportation of skins to Britain and the rest of the world since 1940s. Now Sudan exports raw skins of cattle, sheep after being salted and air dried. This according to estimation made by Dr. Mukhtar makes Sudan earns 60 million dollars annually. But he said this amount is little comparable to existence of animal resources in Sudan. The Sudan animal resources estimated of about more than 100 million livestock. The total annual skin of cattle estimated for 3million piece: sheep 25 million skins produced out from sheep and goats besides skins produced from camels and reptiles.
Back to the point of collaboration with friendly and sisterly countries and local communities the government must offer concessions for investors to establish tanneries and factories at states for producing leather products, suggested Dr. Mukhtar. He said there is big opportunity for investors in the field of leather and tanning industry particularly at central, east and west Darfur states.
These areas host quite good numbers of livestock and slaughtering animals producing many skins. In Addition Dr. Mukhtar said there has been a proposed leather industry city with estimated capital cost of 800million dollars to be located at Gaili town northward of Khartoum. This of course he said represents good opportunity for investors to put in their money as the project is a promising of its kind.
Moreover mobile slaughterhouses must be setup to make sure that skin pickoff processes are done in a scientific way particularly during Ed- Aladha and other social and religious ceremonies where many animals are slaughtered and their skins spoiled due to lack of scientific guidance.

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