Footwear exports from Brazil have increased seven per cent year-on-year to US$1.54 billion for 2003, the Brazilian Association of Footwear Industries (Abicalcados) announced this week.

Although the increase was below the average growth of Brazil's total exports, which rose 21.1 per cent year-on-year for the 12-month period, the country's shoe producers are forecasting a 15 per cent year-on-year export increase for 2004.

According to Abicalcados CEO Heitor Klein, the sector expects to expand distribution to countries which are not traditional importers of Brazilian footwear this year, as well as recover lost ground in markets including Argentina and Mexico.

Currently, the United States is the biggest market for Brazilian footwear, accounting for about 64 per cent of the sector's exports.