According to preliminary figures compiled by CEC, the European shoe industry federation, footwear production declined by 11.3 percent in 2003 to an estimated 710,540,000 pairs in the 15 member countries of the European Union (more precise figures should be made available shortly). The number of workers employed in the industry dropped by 5.4 percent to 246,448.

The EU exported only 190,773,000 pairs, or 13.5 percent less than in the previous year, whereas its imports grew by 16.8 percent to 1,293,885,000 pairs. This would indicate a 7.1 percent rise in apparent consumption to 1.8 billion pairs, or 4.8 pairs per capita, but in reality there was hardly any growth in actual consumption.

Imports grew by 32.4 percent from China, reaching 542,930,000 pairs, and by 13.8 percent from Vietnam, settling at 263,892,000 pairs. Growth rates apparently escalated in the first few months of this year with the gradual lifting of Chinese import quotas. European industry officials are collecting evidence to prove injury, but importers are forming lobbies to try to stave off the application of safeguard measures or anti-dumping duties. In particular, a group of Dutch importers led by Ferro Footwear and involving some major trading companies, is putting together a group to put pressure on the Dutch government and to ensure that any new non-tariff measures will be equitable.

The USA remained the biggest destination of European exports, which fell there by 22.5 percent in volume to 55,374,000 pairs. Next came Switzerland with a 4.5 percent decline to 21,177,000 pairs, and Russia with a drop of 1.2 percent to 9,107,000 pairs.

Europe’s role as a producer continues to decline. According to preliminary estimates, world footwear production increased to a total of 12.8 billion pairs in 2003, including 3.84 billion pairs of leather shoes, and is expected to grow between 14 and 15.5 billion pairs by 2010, for a world population of 7 billion individuals.

Figures released by SATRA a few months ago showed that world production had risen to an estimated 12,448 million pairs in 2002 from 12,269 million pairs in 2001. China’s share of the total pie increased then from 54.0 to 55.9 percent. Production remained stable overall in the other Asian countries, reducing their combined share to 21.3 percent. Western Europe’s share declined from 7.3 to 6.5 percent, while South America’s share grew from 6.8 to 6.9 percent. The production in Eastern Europe declined to 309 million pairs, reducing its share of world output to 2.5 percent.

On the other hand, China is becoming a more important consumer of footwear. While its exports of leather shoes and sports shoes rose by 11.2 and 22.4 percent last year, respectively, its imports of leather shoes rose by 48 percent in 2003, according to reports from the region. China’s consumption of all kinds of shoes and clothing rose by 19.5 percent in the first 11 months of the year. Furniture and automobiles enjoyed higher growth rates. It goes with the strong development of the Chinese economy, whose gross national product is expected to grow by 11.3 percent this year after increases of 8.0 percent in 2002 and 9.1 percent in 2003.