7 August 1998

Sheepskin export threat

A LUCRATIVE trade in British and Irish sheepskins bankrolled by Russias fashionable new rich could be heading for tougher times.

Skins have been exported legitimately to clothing manufacturers in Poland and Turkey for the past five years. Finished coats and jackets find new owners in Russia for up to $400 a time.

But the trade has caused havoc among fellmongers, who are skilled in removing wool and preparing skins for separate markets. "Abattoir operators are charging higher prices for the skins. They are becoming grossly overvalued at about £8-£9 a time," says Donald Phaup, managing director of the Borders Sheepskin Company in Jedburgh.

But the suitcase trade may be in danger of collapse, says Anthony Cox, the Tayside-based secretary of the Skin, Hide and Leather Traders Association.

Quality has declined and Turkish and Polish buyers are demanding better raw material.

British sheep farmers could add to the difficulties. A blink of sun could see a rush to market lambs. The resulting sharp rise in exportable skins could see prices dive. &#42