The Budi Makmur chairman explains that slaughter of the animals in Indonesia is mostly informal. Across the island of Java, for example, small specialist restaurants are important outlets; they buy up the beasts from local families and smallholder farmers when they need supply, calling in Halal butchers from the local community to carry out slaughter in the required way. Hide and skin traders travel all over the island to gather the skins from outlets such as these, wet salting them for preservation and selling them to tanneries. Mr Sutanto is certain that increased awareness in rural communities of the value of skins would prevent good local raw material from going to waste. Capacity could also increase if collection mechanisms improved in other parts of the country, notably Borneo. “Indonesian skins are quite well known in the wider market,” he says. “The grain and size, an average of  between four and five square-feet, are good.”

The tannery needs to be very self sufficient. In addition to plant and machinery of local manufacture, the maintainance department is comprehensive. The photograph shows shaving cylinders being rebladed.

He points out that collecting and preserving these small skins across a country of 17,500 islands is a capital-intensive business and is in the control of a handful of family firms—now being run by members of their second or third generations—who are strong and experienced enough to carry out the work and make a living, even though the margins are not enormous. Haryono Sutanto describes these family companies as being mostly of  Arab origin, but says immediately that this isn’t really relevant as they are sourcing Indonesian material and not relying on contacts in the Middle East. “What  is  relevant  is   the   continuity   they represent,”  he  continues.  “And  there  is  a great   solidarity among them, as well as competition.  We depend  on  these  traders here;  price  is  volatile   because demand is usually more than supply. For this reason, we import material, too, directly from the Middle East. This helps stabilise prices.”

Around 60% of the raw material his company is using at the moment comes from outside Indonesia, mainly from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Shipments come by container vessel throughout the year;  there is no over-reliance on festival- related slaughter because slaughter in Indonesia increases then, too, meaning enough local raw material comes onto the market at these times to satisfy demand. Indonesia’s ministry for agriculture is greatly fearful of the threat to the economy of animal health crises and has banned imports of raw skins, so the material that comes in from external sources has to be pickle or wet blue. “We import because we have to,” Mr Sutanto says, “but we  would like not to have to. We would like there to be a bigger animal population here and I believe the national government is not seeing how important this is. It should have initiatives in place to increase the animal population, such as giving sheep or goats to families. Once the animals breed, those families can pay the government back so that other families can benefit.”

Further fears, this time from major finished product brands, of  incurring the wrath of non-governmental organisations that have linked leather to illegal deforestation in the Amazon, mean that supplier tanneries, including Budi Makmur are being told they will have to put tags of origin on each skin they tan, although they are still waiting to be told exactly how they must go about doing this. For Haryono Sutanto, the clearest consequence of this is that his company will have to choose the skin suppliers it works with even more carefully than before. “We will have to be very selective,”he  says. “We won’t be able to have 30 or 40 suppliers. This is tricky. I think the big brands don’t realise the complexity of the situation we are in.”