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Council of Leather Exports disputes UK report linking Indian exporters to Russia’s war effort

CLE Chairman Sanjay Leekha told ThePrint that if certain Indian leather companies have seen an uptick in business from Russia, it does not reflect the industry as a whole.

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New Delhi: The Indian Council of Leather Exporters (CLE), a trade promotion organisation functioning under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has disputed a report by the UK newspaper The Guardian linking Indian leather companies to Russia’s war effort.

Published on 30 December, the report titled ‘Indian leather companies accused of enabling Russia’s war effort’ says Indian companies have seen a boom in exports to Russian firms that make boots for the Russian military.

Speaking exclusively to ThePrint, CLE chairman Sanjay Leekha said if certain Indian leather companies have seen an uptick in business from Russia, it does not reflect the trend in the industry as a whole.

“The Indian industry has not benefited from Russia’s war. If there are certain companies that have seen an uptick in demand and orders, it is not a reflection of the industry as a whole. Our major markets are still the US and in Europe, Germany, Italy, UK and France remain our top importers,” Leekha told ThePrint over the phone.

The Guardian cites a Kanpur-based company, Homera Tanning Industries, which reportedly confirmed it was supplying leather hides and leather boot products worth £830,000 each month to Russia since the start of the war in February. 

In the report, Homera Tanning admitted to exporting over £5 million worth of leather boot products to Russia, specifically to firms Donobuv and Vostok, which are known to be major suppliers of boots to Moscow’s military.

ThePrint reached Tahir Rizwan, director of Homera Tanning, to confirm the claims but the call was disconnected halfway through the conversation. Rizwan has not responded to calls or messages since. 

India-Russia bilateral trade skyrocketed between April and August 2022 to a record high of $18.2 billion, driven mainly by oil trade. Russia is currently India’s 7th largest trading partner. 

Also Read: What Modi-Zelenskyy call signifies — ‘India’s stature rising despite Russian oil backlash’

‘Unlikely’ to affect Kanpur’s reputation

Much like how Surat is known as the diamond polishing hub of India, Kanpur is seen as one of the biggest leather trade hubs in the country with estimates that it contributes approximately 30 per cent to India’s total leather trade.

Asked if the claims will taint Kanpur’s reputation, the owner of a 25-year-old leather manufacturing company, said on condition of anonymity that this was unlikely. “It could be that Homera Tannery has local suppliers in Russia and that’s why they’ve been benefitting from the war. Most leather companies in Kanpur have not seen as much demand for orders as they have. I doubt it will affect Kanpur’s reputation as a leather hub.”

The Guardian report also quotes Ajay Sahai, director general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), as saying that Indian exporters were “inundated” with requests and queries from Russian businesses desperate for the supply of a number of goods besides leather, including food products, chemicals, electronics, raw materials and car parts.

Speaking to ThePrint, Sahai clarified that he was speaking about inquiries, not orders.

“A distinction should be made between inquiries and transactions. I pointed out that there are a large number of inquiries from Russia, not orders,” he said. “Also, we must ask why the supply of Indian leather goods is being linked with Russian defence forces. Could it also be that demand is coming from the Russian public amid winter time?”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: 8 dead in 6 months & now a Russian tycoon’s ‘suicide’ — mystery deaths of Putin critics in 2022


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