29 July 2004

Zimbabwe: Save Us From 'Zhing-Zhongs',Say Leather Industry Players

Harare — PLAYERS in the leather industry, which has been besieged by imports from Asia, have lobbied the government to come up with protectionist legislation to save their sector from imminent collapse.

The Leather Institute of Zimbabwe (LIZ), Leather and Allied Industries Federation Zimbabwe (LAIFEZ) and the Tanners and Shoes Manufacturers Association (TASMA) have joined hands in lobbying the government to put in place legislation that would protect the leather industry. The three associations are seeking government intervention to stop the influx of counterfeit leather imports into the country, especially those from Asia.

A deluge of cheap counterfeits, nicknamed "zhing-zhongs", imported mainly from Asia, has threatened the viability of the country's leather industry.

Speaking during the launch of a commercialisation of hides and skins project jointly held by LIZ and the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) in Shurugwi last week, Amos Muti, a player in the leather industry, said stakeholders in the leather industry were seeking government's intervention to stop the collapse of the sector.

"We are lobbying the government to put in place legislation that will protect our industry as it is threatened with collapse due to the influx of imports from Asia, in general, and China, in particular," Muti said.

He said players in the leather industry had also devised means and ways to deal with the problem of the Asian products that have made local products uncompetitive.

"As the leather industry players, we have come up with a number of ways to counter those Asian goods and I think we will be successful in regaining our lost market," Muti said.

In its efforts to revive its fortunes, the industry will be introducing new leather products of high quality and would also match the designs with those originating from Asian countries, especially China.

Muti also added that the high demand for the cheap "counterfeit" goods from the locals was just a passing phase as the people were now beginning to realise that the goods are not as durable as the local products.

"When you buy the imports, especially shoes, you will realise that they are not durable . . . and the next time you go looking for a pair of shoes you will not buy a zhing-zhong," Muti said.

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