Leather a passe, synthetic shoes to be new strength of Agra footwear industry

With the Union government giving assurance to adopt footwear industry and provide additional incentives on the manufacture of synthetic material shoes, the Agra footwear industry is looking at a bright future, other than leather shoes.

Talking to India Today, Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber (AFMEC) President Puran Dawar said, "At one time, Agra was known merely as a shoe upper supplier city to the USSR, but with the fall of Soviet Russia, the local footwear industry went through a period of deep recession, only emerging out of it with the setting up of the city’s first complete leather footwear export units."

He said, “There are over 200 footwear exporters selling the leather shoes produced in Agra to the entire world and more are joining the bandwagon every year. However, this progress is not enough for the Agra footwear industry to establish a competitive footprint in the rest of the world, where China still remains the world leader on the basis of its mammoth capacity to produce shoes out of synthetic material, whereas Agra footwear industry has largely been centered around leather.

Suggesting a workaround to this issue, Dawar pointed out that there are many footwear manufacturers in Agra who are now slowly delving into synthetic shoe production but they need better incentives to be able to develop their production to full capacity.

If Agra could start producing synthetic shoes at the same pace as it is producing quality leather shoes, there was no question that soon India will be standing at par with China in the American footwear market where it holds merely a symbolic position currently, Dawar said.

Later, talking to India Today, Council for Leather Export Chairman Rafeeque Ahmed said that the decline of footwear demand in the Middle-East has been a matter of concern for the Indian footwear industry, but the South-East Asian countries are compensating that loss by a great margin. The low-cost and high quality Indian shoes are making an impressive position in the Australian and New Zealand markets whereas the Chinese footwear is slowly losing ground.

With the raw material becoming cheaper for both leather and synthetic shoes, it was now possible for the Indian footwear and leather garments industry to enter Africa with a better bargain to offer, while a re-entry into the US and Brazilian markets was also possible now.

Ahmed had arrived in Agra to attend Meet at Agra, the three-day International Trade Fair on Leather Accessories being held in the city.

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