Dáil Éireann - Volume 291 - 01 June, 1976

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Hide and Leather Industry.

[462] 16. Mr. O'Malley and Mr. J. Gibbons asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is satisfied with the present state of development of the hide and leather industry in Ireland.

Mr. Bruton: My concern is to ensure that as great a proportion as possible of the hides produced in this country is processed at home. Because of the very high levels of cattle slaughterings in 1974 and 1975 there were substantial exports of Irish hides. While slaughterings in the next few years will not continue at the 1975 level, the projected numbers of hides likely to be produced exceed the present capacity of the Irish tanning industry. This industry has, however, embarked on a programme of expansion and I am satisfied that, when this programme is completed, the capacity of the industry will match the numbers of hides likely to be available from home sources.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Can the Parliamentary Secretary give any indication as to the proportion of hides that are exported in a raw state and, also, what steps the Department or the IDA have taken to develop further the leather industry?

Mr. Bruton: In relation to the first part of the supplementary, I am sure the Deputy appreciates that the number of hides exported in a raw state would vary from year to year depending on fluctuations in cattle slaughterings which can be considerable. For example, as the Deputy must be aware, in 1974-75 there was a higher level of cattle slaughterings than was the capacity of the Irish tanning industry. In that year there were more rawhides exported than would be the case in normal years.

Mr. Ray Burke: How many?

Mr. Bruton: I have not got the precise number.

Mr. Ray Burke: What percentage of the total——

An Ceann Comhairle: Order.

[463] Mr. Bruton: In relation to the second part of the question, there are expansion plans in at least two of the tanneries operating in the country. The figures for increased production contained in these proposals indicate that by 1978 the hide requirements of the existing tanneries will be between 1.4 and 1.5 million against a projected availability from domestic slaughterings of cattle of about the same figure. Therefore, by 1978 we should be reaching full utilisation of Irish cattle hides.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that the quality of Irish leather is as good as or better than imported leather? I ask the question because allegations to the contrary have been made in the recent past.

Mr. Bruton: I have no indication to the effect that the quality of Irish leather is in any respect less than adequate. As the Deputy is aware, leather is required for different purposes and some Irish leather may not be suitable for all purposes but of a very high quality for some purposes.