Rwanda Leather Industry Ltd, the country’s sole leather company is to export finished leather products in the next three weeks, Gitau Wamukui the company’s Chief Executive Officer said.
The company has been exporting its unfinished products to India, China, Hong Kong, Kenya and Italy. It recently acquired 15 machines with capacity to process 37,500 tones of skins and 9000 tones of hides monthly.
“The machines are up and running, we are training staff on how to operate them,” Wamukui said in an interview.
The Nyabugogo based company will in the next one week start producing trial products, with final products expected to be delivered to its external market by the end of June.
The samples will soon be taken to countries like Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Germany that have shown interest.
“We are eyeing the regional market, South Africa and Germany for a start,” he said.
Gitau said that they will start with four leather products which include; furniture leather, leather for making shoes and leather for garments like jackets.
The company was to start exporting finished products in March this year. The CEO attributed the delay to the long procedure of importing and installing new machinery.
“Different machines came at different phases and the last machine which is the boiler line came in August last year. This delayed the whole process of exporting finished products,” Gitau said.
Gitau said that as a result of the global financial crisis, hides and skins prices hugely fell in October 2008, when the automotive industry which uses leather to make car seats was severely hit.
The situation was a challenge to the African market because shoe making industries turned to surplus leather from automotives.
“This brought us to a major stand still because it created a situation whereby every one remained with huge stocks right from tannery, supplier and the industry,” He said.
Local prices for hides declined from Rwf400 in 2006 to Rwf220 last year. Dealers predict prices might fall to as low as Rwf100.
Rwanda leather industry suggests that government through Rwanda Development Board should attract investors in processing leather products like shoes.