A priest performs the last rites of a patient who died of Covid-19 amid burning funeral pyres on May 1, in New Delhi, India.

The Indian government locked the country down last year to avoid a runaway Covid-19 outbreak that so many countries in the world had suffered. The plan was largely successful, but crippled the Indian economy.

Now India is facing its own devastating Covid-19 crisis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reluctant to stir its economy again.

India’s economy could still come under pressure again.

This is beginning to show in the Indian leather industry.

India is a major global exporter of leather and leather goods. The country is the second largest exporter of leather clothing and the fourth largest exporter of leather goods in the world, according to the Indian Council on Leather Exports (a division of India’s Ministry of Trade and Industry). It is also a major shoe manufacturer after China, producing nearly 3 billion pairs of shoes annually.

Last year, the pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the Indian leather industry. Leather exports slumped a steep 29.1% year over year as the industry lost nearly $ 1.4 billion in exports. According to Aqeel Panaruna, chairman of the Leather Exports Council, buyers in the US, European Union and the UK have withheld their purchases during their own lockdown.

An industry expert who did not want to be identified and is also infected with the coronavirus said leather manufacturers had suffered the cumulative effect of a lengthy shutdown over the past year. He fears that a deteriorating second wave could set the industry back again.

Much of these concerns are fueled by the dynamism of the industry workforce.

“The majority of the workforce is between 18 and 45 years old and has not yet been vaccinated,” said Sanjay Leekha, vice chairman of CLE.

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