Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar on Thursday said Indian leather exports are bound to triple in the next few years from the present $4 billion as the industry had gained the cutting edge technology, expertise and was moving towards high-end products.

The leather sector, which has emerged strongly over the last few years, is ranked among the top 10 foreign exchange earners for the country. “Today India exports about $4 billion worth of leather and leather products and it will triple if not quadruple in the next few years,” Mr. Khular said while inaugurating the 1st edition of Expo Riva Schuh, an international shoes and leather accessories event organised by the Italian Trade Commission and Council for Leather Exports at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

India's leather exports grew by 13 per cent year-on-year to $3.8 billion in 2010-11 fiscal, surpassing the set target of $3.7 billion, on account of increase in demand from markets like Germany, Italy and the U.K.

During 2009-10, the exports stood at $3.4 billion, according to the figures of the Council for Leather Exports (CLE). Among the categories which registered maximum growth in the last fiscal are non-leather footwear that grew by 30 per cent, followed by finished leather 29.14 per cent, leather footwear 16 per cent and leather goods about 8 per cent. However, leather garments witnessed a negative growth of 6 per cent.

Of the country's total leather exports, Germany accounts for 14.34 per cent, the U.K. 12.80 per cent, Italy 11.52 per cent, the U.S. 8.72 per cent, Hong Kong 8.11 per cent and France 7.07 per cent. The industry provides employment to 2.5 million people.

As many as 180 global participants mainly from Italy, the U.K., China, Thailand and other countries are participating in the world-famous Expo Riva Schuh fair which was brought to India for the first time. The government has announced to set up state-of-the-art manufacturing centres or Mega Leather Clusters in seven states with an aim to give a push to the sector.

Mr. Khullar extended an open invitation to the Italian firms to collaborate with the Indian leather industry in areas like designing, manufacturing and entrepreneurship. “Look at the huge domestic market and the appetite for different brands, the appetite for quality products and that's where the collaboration is going to be critically important,” he remarked.

Rafiq Ahmed, chairman of Council for Leather Exports (CLE) said that Italian companies should explore opportunities in areas like setting up manufacturing centres or joint ventures. Italy is India's third largest market for leather products.

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