South Africa is uniquely positioned to tap into the internationally luxury exotic leather market and to develop a world-class local exotic leather industry. South Africa produces two types of exotic leathers, namely ostrich and crocodile leather. These leathers are considered scares and exclusive, and coupled with their high quality characteristics and uniquely aesthetic appearance, are considered highly sought-after raw materials for the manufacturing of luxury products (specifically accessories) for the international goods industry.
Worldwide luxury exotic leather markets’ and consumers’ increased awareness of the environmental, social, economic and animal welfare impacts, emanating from the use of natural resources, requires manufacturers and international brands to be optimally informed about their own supply chains, with paramount importance placed on ethical, sustainable and transparent/traceable sourcing policies and procedures. It is, therefore, imperative for South Africa as participant in the exotic leather industry to adopt world-class standards for the production of exotic leather and products. In an internationally competitive trading environment South Africa needs to differentiate itself from other competing producer countries and to build a sustainable and growing industry which can benefit from the unprecedented growth in the global luxury market, experienced over the last few years.
The exotic leather industry in South Africa has untapped potential in terms of economic growth and local job creation. This ranges across the entire value chain, from initial stakeholders such as producers and tanneries to final export-ready leather goods; specialised animal husbandry skills to design and leather craft skills. Consumers of luxury goods (especially in the developed countries) expect the retailer to be responsible for the integrity of the complete supply chain. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and whereas this can be done at a basic level the luxury goods retailers will not be able to certify and control individual producers at ground level. This opens up new opportunities for producing countries that are able to ensure that their local industry participants have management plans which ensure sustainability of the industry, traceability of produced product, conservation of wild populations, care for the environment, compliance with animal welfare requirements and adhere to socio-economic expectations. One of the greatest challenges facing South Africa’s exotic leather industry is the perception that there exists a lack of obligation on most stakeholders to exercise stewardship of the resource, or to be involved in its conservation. To overcome this and other challenges and to exploit new opportunities opening up as a consequence of the unprecedented growth currently being experienced in the international luxury market, Exotic Leather South Africa has been established to serve as an industry vehicle for the South African Exotic Leather Market.