MANILA, September 12, 2003  (STAR) By Rose De La Cruz  - Bullfrogs or the giant South American toad (Bufo marinus) abound in the country, especially during the rainy season when they reproduce very fast. But they are being collected mainly for two purposes: as food or as specimen for laboratory experiments in schools and universities.

A recently-concluded study entitled: "Development of Tanning Techniques for and Efficient Utilization of Frog Skins" authored by Corazon C. Maza, Faustina P. Ordina and Hernando Diaz, all of the Bureau of Animal Industry’s Animal Products Development Center in Valenzuela City, said frog skin can be used for leather goods such as bags, shoes, bracelets, watch straps, sun visors, and fashion accessories which are popular among the young.

A frog skin leather industry, once it materializes, will help the Philippines create a name as the exclusive supplier of frog leather in the world market, which is now dominated by animal hides from bigger animals like cows, carabaos, snakes, goats, sheep and even crocodiles. But no one has yet found a way of converting frog skins into hides for leather products.

"With the right combination of tannages, leather from frog skins can be an income earner for the backyard tanner and small entrepreneurs. Its processing does not require expensive tanning machineries. It can be done in the backyard or garage," the authors said.

The study said that small businessmen and backyard tanners can start on their own with a minimum capital of P20,000. The cost of production per 50 pieces of frog skins is around P350, the study showed.

Frog skins are not so expensive compared to other larger animal skins with a piece of wet salted frog skin costing P5 during the conduct of the research. For commercial purposes, propagation and culturing of frogs will promote a steady and cheap supply of the skins without disrupting the ecological balance.

A ready sources of frog skins are the biological laboratories in schools and universities who after dissecting the specimen frogs bury them in their yard.

The study got its supply of frozen frog skin from Zamboanga-based Reynaldo Chua (an entrepreneur ex-porting leather goods from skin) measuring 98sq. cm. and treated the skin through a 14-step process, namely wet salt, soaking in bacte-ricide, liming, reliming (descaling/fleshing), de-liming/bating, bleaching, pickling, pre-tanning, tan-ning, retanning (overnight) neutralization, dyeing and fatliquoring, drying and finishing (glazing).

The study suggested however that those interes-ted in tanning frog skins as a business enterprise should culture frogs in line with environmental protection.

The Philippines, according to a NEDA study in 1986, was exporting footwear and leather craft from 1982 to 1984 at $62.3 million, with most being shipped to the US, United Kingdom and Australia. In the eighties, the Philippines’ share was 1 percent of the US market or about 73 to 87 percent of total leather footwear exports; in the UK, less than 1 percent and in Australia, the Philippines’ share was barely 4 percent.

From 2001 to 2002, the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion reported that Philippine export of leather goods declined from $274.8 million in 2002 to only $168.91 million in 2002.

Since the local tanning industry depends heavily on imported chemicals the cost of production is high, affecting its profitability. Add to this, the lifting of the export ban on raw hides which ultimately caused a shortage, thereby, resulting in low production rate. A third factor is the closure of tanneries that do not comply with environmental regulations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Despite the Philippines’ being an exporter of leather products, it also competes with imports of leather accessories from Asian neighbors like India and Singapore and shoes from Italy.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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