Iranian leather industry

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Iran’s modern leather industry (صنعت چرم ایران ) began at the beginning of the 20th century. There are references of people trying to import leather processing machinery from the West during the reign of last Qajar king, Ahmad Shah Qajar.[1] The idea of building leather factories, even goes further back. After the bombardment and closure of the first parliament by Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar, he ordered the establishment of a new assembly and one of the things that they were discussing in that assembly was about an agreement to built up a modern leather factory.[2] Before that time there were only traditional tanneries (dabbaghi) in Iran.[3]

During the first Pahlavi era, German companies started to invest in the Iranian leather industry. The Khosravi leather factory was then built in Tabriz in 1931/32 (1310 Iranian calendar) with 533 workers,[4] the largest and most modern of the time. After the Second World War, during the second Pahlavi era, this industry started to develop with factories mainly in the south of Tehran (Shahr-e-Rey) and Tabriz. These were mainly private companies who were able to import Western machinery, mostly from Germany and Italy. The use of Western chemical products in the process of leather making also increased the quality of Iranian leather.

Some other modern leather factories established before the Second World War were as follow: Mahdood-e Iran (Tabriz, 1929) with 130 workers, Vahab_Zadeh Brothers (Tabriz, 1931) with 74 workers, Khorasan corp, (Mashhad, 1930) with 100 workers, Bahram Ardeshir and Partners, proportional liability partnership (Hamedan, 1932).[5]

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution

During the 1970s, the leather industry was one of the most lucrative businesses in Iran. After the 1979 Islamic revolution sanctions against Iran affected the leather industry. As a result of these sanctions, some Iranian chemical companies began to produce chemical products for the industry and the manufacture of leather processing machinery developed as well.

Before the revolution, Iranians were able to build some of the machinery, such as gear boxes for the wooden drums used for washing the leather.

File:Fleshing Machines built in Tabriz for Leather Industry,1980s.jpg
Fleshing Machines built in Tabriz for Leather Industry,1980s

Afterwards, more complicated machinery, such as fleshing machines were first built in Tabriz. The use of these types of mechanized machines continued until the production of more advanced mechanical and electrical machines. The leather industry in Tabriz started to use one of the most advanced machines built in Iran. It is used for splitting[6][7] and was produced by Reza Pourbagheri, of the Techno Machine Company, which was first located in Tehran. The Kardan Comapnay of Tehran produced electronic measuring machines. Later the company, Hydro Charm, under the management of Davood Kamrava emerged and produced other leather process machines.[8]

The leather industry flourished after the revolution and was then taking advantage of government subsidies until it restricted its support. This was due to the inferior quality of leather and also the import of Chinese products which forced some factories to close by the end of the twentieth century.[9] As a result many workers also lost their jobs. A report reveals that "1500 workers have lost their jobs following the continuing shutdown of leather producing factories in the city of Mashhad. According to the Safir News website, since 2003, 45 plants manufacturing leather products have been closed down for various reasons such as the instability in the currency rate for producers and imports of cheap Chinese and Thai products".[10] This could be mainly because of the inferior quality of Iranian leather which makes it difficult for Iranian leather producers to find markets outside Iran to export their goods. "At the present Iranian leather export mainly focus on trade of raw hides and skins at low sale price, and Iranian government encourages the industry to process high added value products of leather goods, leather shoes and leather clothing, so as to increase the industries profits".[11]

According to a report, currently (2012), 170 leather companies are still active in Iran with the annual production of 4 million and 334 thousand square ft of leather in a year. Most these companies belong to the private sector. But despite the high investments in leather industry in the country, most these factories just work with 40% of their capacity. While the country's leather industry has a long history and Iranian livestock skin hides genetically speaking are among the best in the world, Iranian products have not achieved a special place in the leather industry in international markets.[12] The traditional slaughter of livestock which increases the waste and reduces the quality of skin also creates problems for the export of raw and semi finished leather.


  1. Sazman-e Asnad-e Melli-e Iranhttp:////
  2. Ettehadieh, Mansoreh. Majlis va Entekhabat, Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran, 1375, Tehran, page 118.
  3. for more information see dabbaghi in
  4. Sazman-e Asnad-e Melli-e Iran
  5. Sazman-e Asnad-e Melli-e Iran
  6. for a picture see
  7. a machine that has knife edge which can accurately split the skin in crosssection.
  8. interview with the council of leather manufacturer of Tabriz February 2005