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In 2015, Vietnam imported US$5 billion worth of leather and accessories, only 5 percent of it from India, the second largest global producer of leather and footwear.
Vietnam exports 850 million pairs of shoes every year but faces a severe shortage of raw materials, especially processed leather.
Diep Thanh Kiet, vice chairman of the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association, asked his Indian counterparts at a meeting on July 14 on the sidelines of the 2016 Show and Leather Fair in HCM City attended by 41 Indian firms: “Indian leather has good price and quality; why cannot we buy from India?
“Every year, we imports billions of VND worth of leather from other countries, not India.”
But things have been changing in recent times, with Indian leather and footwear exports to Vietnam increasing steadily.
It rose from US$40.66 million in 2009–10 to US$117.07 million in 2014–15. The latest reports show that in April-December in 2015 they had risen to US$84.5 million.
Rafeeque Ahmed, chairman of India’s Council for Leather Exports, in turn urged Vietnamese footwear companies to grab the opportunity that India, with its huge market, offers.
The Indian footwear market is estimated to be worth US$6.5 billion now and expected to rise to US$12 billion by 2020.
India is renowned for its quality raw leather, while its large young population means the availability of skilled labour at competitive wages, Ahmed said.
The leather and footwear industry is among the top 10 foreign exchange earners for India, with an estimated US$6 billion.
A Khan of Kbro Leathertex, who was visiting the country for the first time to take part in the exhibition, said she had thought Vietnam was a small market but now realises it is huge and plans to open an office in 2017.
“Vietnam’s several free trade agreements with important markets in the world and membership of the TPP will offer a big advantage for investors here.
“I guess several leather and footwear factories will be moved from other countries to Vietnam.”
India’s ambassador to Vietnam, Parvathaneni Harish, said bilateral trade was US$7 billion in 2015 and is expected to rise to US$15 billion by 2020.
The leather and footwear sector would greatly contribute to achieving the target, he said.
Indian companies see great opportunity in the Vietnamese market, he added.