An expert from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has accused developed countries such as the US of imposing unrealistic specifications that act as non-tariff barriers in the leathergoods sector.

Mr A. Sahasranaman, UNIDO's programme coordinator, regional programme for pollution control in the tanning industry in South East Asia, made his comments at "WTO and the Indian leather industry", a seminar organised by the Council for Leather Exports (CLE), a semi official promotional body for exporters and the Indian Government.

The workshop also noted the need for aggressive marketing, especially through trading houses (large, government sanctioned exporters) and established leather export houses. India is increasingly being challenged on price by competitors Brazil, China, Indonesia and Thailand.

India exports $1.7bn worth of leather products, including footwear, apparel, accessories and hides, accounting for only 2.25 per cent of world trade. The sector employs around two million workers.

Pollution control is still an issue in the sector, but the conference was informed that Calcutta, one of the worst pollution offenders, is to set up a new leather centre where a water treatment plant will be part of the basic design of the complex.

By Navroz Havewala