There have been difficult times in the skins market recently, but high-quality sheep and lambskins from New Zealand are still in demand around the world, including among specialist tanners in the European Union (EU). Pickled pelts were the most popular New Zealand sheepskin products among EU tanners in 2015.


The EU as a whole accounted for only 26.5% of all of New Zealand’s exports of pickled lamb pelts and just over 30% of its pickled sheep pelt exports last year, according to figures from the New Zealand Leather & Shoe Research Association (LASRA).


In total, New Zealand shipped 14.6 million pickled lamb pelts to tanners overseas in 2015, with almost 3.9 million of them going to the EU. Of these, more than 2.5 million went to France and just over 1 million to Italy. Together these two countries took almost 95% of the EU’s share of pickled lamb pelt exports; 125,000 went to the UK and 85,000 went to Spain.


For pickled sheep pelts, Italy took substantially more than France last year, 390,000 compared to 45,000, but the UK took almost as many pickled sheep pelts from New Zealand as these two did together, with 417,000.


A small volume of salted and wet blue lambskins and sheepskins make up the EU leather industry’s imports from New Zealand of ovine raw material. While New Zealand ships almost 6.3 million salted lambskins to overseas tanners, just 0.3% of that total went to the EU in 2015, with 14,000 skins going to Italy and 5,000 to Greece.


Spain is the only destination in the EU for salted New Zealand sheepskin, taking 5.3% of total exports of this material, 50,000 skins. Italy takes all of the wet blue skins that come to the EU, but it’s a figure of just over 20,000 out of a total export volume of 1.4 million.