The latest blow to hit the British leather industry could come from the sourcing activities of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which may decide to use Brazilian leather in its next army boot.
The industry has already been hard hit by a fall in US demand resulting from the recession and events of September 11.
And according to Steve Johnson, managing director of the leading British leather group Pittards of Leeds, a Brazilian supplier has now copied the leather it had provided for a two-year wearer trial of a new combat boot - and has since won the contract. This has left Pittards, which also operates out of Fife and from Yeovil in Somerset, with no pay-back on its investment.

Quoted in The Herald newspaper, Johnson said: "We are already at a disadvantage to Third World competition because we provide, rightly, decent pay and working conditions for our employees and meet the costs for all the very necessary environmental and health and safety requirements."
"We are happy to continue to invest time in product improvement and innovation for the MoD, but there must be some commercial pay-back. We do currently supply one specialised leather in limited volumes, which we developed specifically for the MoD. Our assumption, sadly, is we will lose this once a low-cost country has copied it."

In response, the MOD has said it does not contract directly with leather suppliers but with manufacturers of leather items, which are free to sub-contract their suppliers.