The lack of a quality standards policy is giving consumers of leather products a rough deal.
Industry participants have noted that foreign traders and bag manufacturers are passing on resin products as genuine, thus denying the local sector billions of shillings.
This despite sectoral protests that Kenya was exporting jobs and revenues, and allowing unscrupulous shoe and bag makers to sell good-looking products branded with "genuine" leather goods.
"We have the capacity to provide Kenyans with 40 million pairs of shoes a year, but cheap fake leather goods have proliferated across the market, making Kenya a dumping ground for counterfeit goods that wear out quickly when bought, voice of Kariokor Cobblers Peter. Kitheka.
Kitheka, who has been in the leather business for 30 years, said she has participated in several forums with senior government officials, where it was agreed that standards for leather products should be formulated and implemented.
"Why do we allow harmful resin products to be sold to Kenyans and then complain that Kenya is a land of cancer-related diseases. Kebs should be told not to allow any counterfeit products to be labeled as leather, "he told participants last week at a workshop convened to launch the Leather Apex Society, a non-state entity to promote growth in the industry.
It is estimated that Kenya loses up to 5 billion yuan annually due to poor quality of leather, even when the sub-sector is destined to be a key factor for the increase in value added.
The figure is obtained through an estimate of 3 billion yen that would have been obtained by primary producers and 2 billion yen that would be bagged by tanneries through the export of better quality products.
A recent World Bank-funded study on the leather sector found that the lack of certification services undermines local growth prospects as good quality imports continued to be sold locally, despite evidence that genuine.
"At the manufacturing end of the value chain, quality leather awards and recognition programs can be developed to induce innovation and foster competition based on distinct quality and design.
Finally, the application of quality standards can be increased, especially for imported products, "noted the study entitled Kenya Leather Industry: Diagnosis, Strategy and Action Plan.
The survey found that local leather companies with a global reputation, such as Bata and Sandstorm, have strived to increase their production levels to increase their brands under the Made in Kenya logo.
"The Kenya Leather Development Council, supported by Kebs, can take a leading role in developing certification standards that will guide the training of workers and supervisors across the leather value chain," said the study published in 2015.
The meeting, which secured joint efforts to revitalize the local leather industry, heard that Kenya needs 44 million pairs of shoes a year, but local businesses only sold three million with 26.7 million imported synthetic products.
"Kenya also imports another 15 million used shoes sold in minumba yards. Our problem is not the market, but access to quality leather to make good Kenyan brand products, since up to 95% of our semi-processed leather is exported to leather factories for the manufacture of jackets, purses and shoes, as well as belts, "said LASK secretary general Beatrice Mwasi.
Ms Mwasi added that her main task would be to bring all the players to a table and speak with one voice in search of solutions to their problems.
The meeting heard that Kenya needs to invest in modern industrial machinery to make it easier for shoemakers and other leather manufacturers to have access to well-finished items.
Mr. Kitheka welcomed the ongoing installation of a common manufacturing facility in Kariokor, Nairobi, which will be inaugurated next February, saying it will help improve the quality of its finished products, which in the past have been done manually.
"This will improve the gains for the 300 shoemakers at Kariokor who now make sandals that are sold all over East and West Africa," he noted.
The Ethiopian leather industries enjoy the use of modern processing machines that facilitate mass production where the cost of manufacturing a pair of moccasins is Sh728 compared to Kenya's Sh944.
The government is currently setting up a 500-acre leather industrial park in Kinanie, in Machakos County, where it invited stakeholders to occupy tanning space, leather manufacturing bases for exhibition huts. This may cause foreign leather manufacturers to be encouraged to shop with the government, promising to impose a ban on the export of semi-processed leather.
Data from Kenya's National Bureau of Statistics show that slaughterhouses in the country earn an average of 2.2 million heads of cattle and calves per year, while sheep and goats are 6.4 million.