Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has said Malawi imported $10 million (about K7.3 billion) worth of footwear and other leather products last year.
Malawi continues to export unprocessed leather to neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique and even to China.
The ministry’s principal secretary Cliff Chiunda in an interview yesterday said there is need for the country to start adding value to its hides so that shoes and other leather products can be manufactured locally.
He said the country exported leather products worth $32 000 (about K23 million) for further processing.
He said: “Imports for footwear alone was about $7.4 million (about K5.4 billion) while $2.2 million were imports of other leather products such as travel bags, hand bags, wallets and similar products.
“The bulk of the exports are raw hides and skins fresh or salted, dried and limed which brought in a total of $5.5 million.”
Chiunda said through the leather value chains strategy, Malawi want to significantly reduce export of raw hides and skins by 2022 and instead the ministry wants to ensure that hides and skins produced locally are converted into crust leather ready for industrial use.
Yesterday in Lilongwe, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism through the Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancments (Mepe) project organised a vegetable tanning training.
About 20 members of the Leather Industries Association of Malawi (Liama) are attending the training.
Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (Smedi) acting chief executive officer Richard Zidana said the training has come at the right time as Malawi is losing its hides to other countries.
“It is important that you take this training seriously because it will bring a huge change to the leather sector. My plea is that when you go back to your respective homes make sure you impart knowledge even to those who are not members of the Leather Industries Association of Malawi,” said Zidana.
Liama chairperson Edward Malunga said most of the hides the country loses are from Bolero in Rumphi, Makhetha in Blantyre, Sharpe Valley in Ntcheu and Salima.
“As Liama, we are still looking for more members because we know we are wasting this precious commodity in most parts of the country.
“We are optimistic that after this training we will be well equipped to add value to hides which will in turn help us generate a lot of revenue for our survival,” he said.
Malunga also pleaded with government to help set up tanneries where hides can be processed locally before export.
Chiunda assured the group that government will facilitate access to joint machinery under one roof by 2018 through the provision of a leather design studio for common use.