The 2023 balance sheet of the French leather supply chain

The 2023 balance sheet of the French leather supply chain

The French leather supply chain generated a trade surplus of just over 5 billion euros in 2023. The year ended without much change from 2022: imports remained stable at around 14 billion euros, while exports grew by 6% to 19 billion, partly due to the effect of inflation. Leather goods is the dominant sector, driven by Asia. But the Alliance France Cuir (formerly Conseil National du Cuir) argues that trade with Europe is growing faster than trade with Asia.

The composition

The French leather supply chain is composed of 12,800 companies, employing 133,000 people, with a turnover of 25 billion euros in sales, including 19 billion euros in exports. The star of transalpine exports is Asia (+12 percent), which garners 44% of all exports. China remains France’s best customer, accounting for 18% of exports, thanks to a 9% growth over 2022. Note the 84 percent increase, to 21 million euros, in exports to Beijing of finished hides. Sales of finished bovine hides even tripled.

The relationship with Italy

Italy, buying more than two-thirds of the total, is France’s best customer for raw hides and skins, despite a 12 percent decrease from 2022 (145 million euros in 2023). Speaking of finished, the Belpaese import mainly calves and sheep from France, while France buys mainly finished bovine hides from Italy. Rome is the number one supplier of finished leather, accounting for almost half of French imports. Conversely, Italy is also the number one customer of transalpine tanneries collecting 35 percent of exports, despite the -8 percent in 2023 that Alliance France Cuir explains “by a slowdown in the activity of Italian producers.”

The finished product

In 2023, French leather goods imports from European partners increased by 16%, while those from Asia decreased by 6%. Exports to Europe were up 5 percent from 2022. In footwear, out of 100 pairs of shoes exported, 87 remain in Europe. France imported fewer Asian shoes (-15% in volume, -10% in value) than in 2022. This is why Alliance France Cuir notes a shift in trade toward Europe. An inference supported by the increase in average export and import prices.

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