THE 10th Hongkong International Leather Fair will be the largest so far with an even stronger presence of Asian buyers and manufacturers. China in particular will be far more prominent than in the past. Asia's biggest leather trade show will once again utilise all available space at the Hongkong Convention and Exhibition Centre and overflow into the nearby China Resources Exhibition Centre. The gross total area of 36,000 square metres will be filled by more than 2,000 companies, representing more than 40 countries, and the stands will span the whole gamut of the industry - from raw materials through all the processing technology and equipment to the finished products. A record 24 pavilions will be erected at the fair with firms from China, Nepal and Thailand making their debuts as collective groups, rather than presenting themselves as individual companies. The growth in the Chinese presence has been the most spectacular, according to the organisers, the Hongkong Trade Fair Group. At Leather '92 there were 19 participating companies from the mainland. Leather '93 will see 60, an increase of more than 200 per cent. They include 27 firms which will exhibit collectively under the umbrella of the Shanghai Leather Corporation, with assistance from the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). The Italian contingent is once again the dominant group, with 267 companies. Of these, 230 will be exhibiting in their group pavilion which, at 2,450 square metres, is far and away the largest. The remainder are acting independently. Taiwan will be the largest Asian participator, with more than 70 companies exhibiting in an 820 sq m pavilion. In terms of overall trends, the expansion of the South Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and Thai groupings reflects the continuing shift in focus of the world's leather industry towards the East. Yet the sheer diversity of countries attending is remarkable. There will be companies from Libya, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Botswana and Paraguay, as well as from the major league players - Australia, the US, Germany, Taiwan and Italy. Given that this is a business-to-business exhibition, the 20,000 buyers that are expected to attend are even more vital than the producers. Many companies fall into both categories, of course, but some come only as consumers, and the organisers have arranged visas and special passes for potential buyers from as far afield as Russia, the Lebanon, Hungary, Dubai and Iran. An indication of the importance exhibitors and buyers attach to the leather fair, which is the largest international trade fair held in Hongkong, came from Ms Lesley King, senior sales manager for the event. ''Last year's show saw record attendances from both sides of the industry. The number of buyers overall rose by 6.6 per cent, but the growth in overseas buyers was up 20 per cent,'' she said. ''Additionally, while the top three countries in terms of buyer attendance were, for the fourth year running, Taiwan, Japan and [South] Korea, the level of interest from the United States jumped by 30 per cent, re-emphasising the truly international scope of the fair,'' she said. Statistical analysis of the Leather Fair has been carried out for the past four years by the Hongkong Productivity Council to provide potential exhibitors with evidence of its importance. Clearly, they have been thoroughly persuaded, because Ms King added that the priority booking scheme for existing exhibitors invariably meant that 75 per cent would re-book there and then for the following year. ''This year's event was totally sold out well before Christmas. I had over 40 companies who had completed space application forms and were held on a waiting list, plus twice that number who didn't even bother to return their forms after I'd told them we were booked out,'' she said. Additional evidence for the significance of this event was provided by Mr Derek Dickins, managing director of the Hongkong Trade Fair Group. ''Leather is a worldwide industry which requires market places where the key players can meet face to face on a regular basis,'' he said. ''This is reflected in the fact that the International Council of Hides, Skins and Leather Traders' Associations will use Leather '93 as the venue for their annual meeting,'' he added. Furthermore, Australian companies will again use the Hongkong International Leather Fair to hold their annual general meeting. They actually achieve a higher turnout of members in Hongkong than if the meeting were in Australia.