The tannery buildings in a residential part of town have gone through quite a few layout changes in 45 years. Mr Sutanto explains that some of these changes have been through choice, while others have been forced by circumstances beyond the company’s control. From choice, Budi Makmur moved to its current site in 1976, a time of expansion for the company. The original tannery was closer to the  centre of the city. An obvious example of enforced change came when one of the principal buildings on the main site—the raw materials store—had to be rebuilt after a severe earthquake hit Yogyakarta in 2006. Other developments have included a combination of imposed and improvised change.

“In the 1980s, the Indonesian government forbade the export of pickled hides,” the chairman says. “It wanted companies to add more value here. So we started doing our own wet blue, installing a beamhouse here and moving our finishing operations to a separate site about 1.5 kilometres away. We have our own vehicles to take material from one site to the other. It’s not far, and this is not a crowded part of the city.” There are houses all around, though, because Java is the most populous island in the world—136 million people live there, 57% of Indonesia’s total of 237.5 million—and space for housing is at a premium.

As well as people, sheep and goat have always been numerous in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. In 2010, there were 25 million sheep and goats in the country, more than twice the number of cattle and buffalo (12  million). Slaughter statistics for the year were three million goats and two million sheep. Two million head of cattle were slaughtered and 200,000 buffalo. A phenomenon famously occurs in Bangladesh of a huge proportion (as much as 80%) of tanneries’ annual supply of local raw material becoming available with the peaks in slaughter that take place around only a few days in the year, coinciding with great Muslim feasts such as Eid al-Adha.

Something similar used to happen in Indonesia, too, Mr Sutanto says, but people there  eat  goat, lamb and mutton all year round. Meat is something of a luxury item in many households; since the Asian economic crash of 1998, the government has withdrawn school and healthcare subsidies and life is expensive for many families. At the same  time, the  country’s population keeps growing, so even if per capita totals have fallen, total meat consumption has remained pretty constant.