Changing leadership19 June 2004
It was never the intention for the two events to coincide. Tony Cox had planned to tender his resignation last year but the agm was cancelled due to the SARS epidemic. As yet, no-one has been appointed to replace him and his wife Carole as administrators of the association, but he has agreed to stay on until September 30 to allow the new president Pierre Bonefant time to reorganise. In his president's report, Gorman told delegates that the economy in Australia had grown for the 13th year due to a weak Australian dollar which has boosted exports. He said that China will be the country Australia courts most in 2004. For a short time in 2003, China outstripped America as Australia's second biggest trading partner (after Japan). Where cattle numbers have dropped elsewhere in the world, Australia's numbers have increased slightly to 27.2 million owing to a fall in the slaughter rates. With a shift in export from Europe to Asia, there has been an increase in demand for salted hides. Numbers of sheep, however, are at a 55-year low, down from 150-160 million to less than 100 million. By comparison the USA, the world's largest cattle hide producer, is reporting the lowest level of supplies since 1959. Year-on exports are down three million pieces from 23.7 to 20.7 million. More than 50% of all hide and skin exports are made up of raw cattle hides with 76% being sold to the top three US markets: China/Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Exports to Mexico are slightly higher than to the EU at 1.7 million. The US reports that, in two years, their total world exports of wet-blue have dropped from 7.5 to 6.7 million pieces. In part, Asia is discovering that they can do the job cheaper. Other countries reporting to ICHSLTA such as Greece saw a further decline in leather production and increased imports from Asia. Imports of hides have dropped and the export of domestic hides increased. Italy considered 2003 a 'completely unfavourable year' owing to a steady decline in prices and poor demand for finished goods. The weakening US dollar against the stronger euro only made matters worse. France, too, reports lower animal numbers and reduced levels of slaughter. The latter was complicated by the introduction of European Regulation No. 1774 concerning animal byproducts not destined for human consumption. However, hides and skins derived from animals which have successfully passed ante and post mortem BSE testing are scheduled as category 3 material, suitable for gelatine making. In his report, Cox referred to the closure of SHALTA, the British trade association, stressing that it did not close down for financial reasons but because there were too few people who could make up the council and undertake the related committee work. This included arbitration and appeal so that with the closure of SHALTA on June 30, 2003, the possibility of 'London Arbitration' also ended. He then went on to the subject of the International Contract and moves by the Italian Tanners Association (UNIC) to launch their own, alternative version of the contract for their members. Cox said that it was the intention of the current officers of the council that any discussions about any needed alterations to the International Contract should in future take place directly with UNIC. In the two years since the last meeting, four countries resigned: the UK and New Zealand in the first year and Norway and Sweden in the second. However, two British companies have joined as associate members: McConomy & Co Ltd represented by David Potter and Rudston Products represented by Jonathan Freeston. Potter was previously the ICHSLTA vice president destined to takeover from John Gorman. However, with the closure of SHALTA he became ineligible with the result that Gorman agreed to undertake a further two-year term, making him one of the longest serving presidents of ICHSLTA. The new vice president is Madam Zhang Shu Hua, who is deputy standing chairman of the China Leather Industry Association and chairman of the ICHSLTA Asia Committee.