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Growing reptile returns

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Grown crocodiles on a farm in 2009. Domestic farmers generally hatch the reptiles and sell the young abroad. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

CAMBODIA’S crocodile farms hatched some 50 percent more reptiles last year, though the industry requires more investment before skins can be harvested for the fashion industry.

Prices for the reptiles were increasing internationally, leading the Kingdom’s farms to hatch 283,000 young crocodiles in 2010, up from 185,000 the year previous, according to a report from the Fisheries Administration obtained yesterday.

“The prices get better each year, [which] means croc production has increased too,” said Fisheries Administration Deputy Director Sam Nuov.

Crocodile young are generally hatched in Cambodia and then exported to Vietnam, Thailand and China to be raised for meat and skin, he said.

Raising crocodiles to adulthood for their hides requires large capital investments – particularly the cost of separate pens for the reptiles – which Cambodia was unable to meet.

“We are looking for companies from Australia and Singapore to invest in large-scale [operations] to create opportunities to export crocodile skin to international markets,” he said.

Kaing Sarin, owner of a crocodile farm in Kandal province’s Kandal Steung district, said yesterday that prices had risen to about US$30 per young crocodile in 2010, from about $14 the year before.

Kaing Sarin – whose farm produced 10,000 young last year – said he was planning to hatch some 12,000 animals this year from its 3,500 breeding crocodiles.

“Crocodiles are usually available to sell in May, but we don’t know the prices for the year yet,” he said.

Prices have tended to vary from year to year. Crocodile young had fetched as much as $40 in 2003, before declining to lows of $12 per animal in 2008, he said. A report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries stated Cambodia’s 600 farms had bred 185,000 crocodile young in 2009.

The Kingdom now has as many as 800 separate farms in several provinces, including Kandal, Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom.

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