Sudan: Hides, a Vast Potential Waiting to Be Tapped

Sudan is in possession of all the requirements of a successful natural leather industry, thanks to its vast animal wealth, that counts 140 million heads of livestock, in addition to a big mass of wildlife and reptiles. This vast potential is also coupled with tens of high- capacity tanneries.

Hides take the first place in the overall industrial exports and also rank second in livestock and animal products exports.

Cattle is the major source of hides, while sheep, goats and antelopes constitute an important source of this commodity. Some tanned hides are obtained from crocodiles, sharks, snakes, tigers and other wild game.

Sudan had known leather industry since times immemorial, whereby historical excavations have revealed this in the Musawwarat and Bajrawiyya monumental sites, some 250 km north of here. These excavations have revealed that ancient Sudanese had known the traditional leather shoe 5000 years ago in the Kingdom of Meroe. This hand-made leather shoe (or what is now known locally as the markoob) is still part of the components of men's attire, beside the traditional jallabiyya (garment) and emma (turban). Animal skins are still used by farmers and pastoralists to keep and cool drinking water. Leather is also woven to produce comfortable beds and in the making of bags of sorts. These leather works and products have become part of the Sudanese civilization.

The year 1945 had heralded the inception of the modern leather industrial sector with the establishment of the first mechanized shoe factory. This was followed with the establishment of three big government tanneries, namely the White Nile Tannery, the Khartoum Tannery and the Gezira Tannery. These were followed with a number of small tanneries set by the country's private sector. This is in addition to 30 tanning areas countrywide that serve a wide sector of craftsmen specialized in making the traditional shoe (the markoob) and other leather products.

During 1967-1990 the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNODO) had undertaken a program for developing the Sudanese leather industry that helped improve the quality of hides and encouraged the initiation of several modern slaughterhouses around the country. The program has helped train leather technicians and butchers in keeping with the international specifications, a matter that promoted leather trade and exports.

In addition, Sudan now has a number of training and applied research institutions in leather and leather products.

However, experts maintain that despite this vast hides potential, Sudan is yet to make maximum benefit from this economic sector.

The experts advise that citizens and slaughterhouses workers should be educated on how to take good care of the animal skins in order to avoid any waste. They also suggest that tanneries couple their businesses with an integrative leather manufacturing industry that could cut the exportation of raw hides, and earn the economy a lot of additional income.

In order to encourage local and foreign investors in this sector, the experts advise the reduction of taxes and tariffs on the leather sector. They also advise preferential treatment for leather manufacturers with respect to electricity rates and with respect to customs duties on imports of leather manufacturing equipment and machinery.

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