The value of shoes exported from Brazil fell by 12.8 percent to the equivalent of US$1,296 million in 2011, and the drop in volume was even higher – down by 21.0 percent to 112.9 million pairs. In particular, Brazil's exports of leather shoes declined by 21.2 percent to $735.9 million, while those of synthetic shoes rose by 2.3 percent to $475.0 million.

Among the major destinations, exports fell in value by 30.9 percent in the U.S., by 45.8 percent in the U.K. and by 33.9 percent in Italy. They grew instead by 16.7 percent in Argentina and by 10.1 percent in France.

On the other hand, some major Brazilian companies told us at the Couromoda show in São Paulo last month that they managed to increase their exports last year, thanks to their relatively good products and to investments in export promotion. Piccadilly reported a 32 percent increase in sales outside Brazil, especially in Latin America, thanks in part to higher average prices, but confessed that its European sales were generally down.

Officials of Abicalçados, the Brazilian shoe industry association, blamed the appreciation of the Brazilian real and unfair competition from producers in the Far East, calling once more for measures to stem the alleged circumvention of the anti-dumping duties imposed on China in 2010.

Total shoe imports into Brazil grew by 33.6 percent in value and by 2.1 percent in volume last year, reaching a total of 47.9 million pairs worth $492.8 million. Imports from China dropped by 9.3 percent in volume to 18.3 million, but grew by 14.6 percent in value to $103.8 million.

On the other hand, imports from Vietnam surged by 43.1 percent in value to $191.2 million. Other big increases were recorded in the value of imports from Indonesia (+51.5%), India (+44.2%), Hong Kong (+333.5%), the U.S. (+158.8%) and Cambodia (+280.4%), among others. Imports from Italy went up by 61.3 percent to $13.8 million, in spite of Brazil's high import duties. Imports from Portugal jumped by 374.5 percent to a still-low level of $663,500.

Preliminary figures provided by Abicalçados show that Brazilian producers manfactured a total of 819.0 million pairs of shoes in 2011, down from 893.9 million pairs in 2010. This would indicate a possible drop in apparent consumption to 753.9 million pairs, down from 779.6 million pairs. However, Brazilian shoe retailers calculate that their sales actually went up by between 7 and 8 percent in 2011, possibly because of higher average prices. Brazilian consumers bought only around 300 million thongs and other open shoes last year, compared with 450 million structured shoes.