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Croc skins new focus for farmers

Croc skins new focus for farmers

111228_07
Crocodiles at a farm in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district last year.

Crocodile farmers in Siem Reap are turning away from the export of hatchlings to Vietnam, choosing instead sell the reptiles for their skins.

Luon Nam, president of the province’s Crocodile Feeding Association, said yesterday the reliance on Vietnam was an unsustainable strategy for the industry.

Any change in demand from Cambodia’s eastern neighbour left farmers vulnerable to falling prices, he said.

The CFA shipped about 200,000 crocodiles to Vietnam this year. That was 100,000, or 33 per cent, fewer than in 2010, Luon Nam said.

“The recent decrease in crocodile babies is because we have only the Vietnamese market, and that puts pressure on us,” he said.

Newly hatched crocodiles had fetched US$27 each earlier this year, but later fell by as much as 37 per cent to $17, Luon Nam said. This had pushed farmers towards the sale of crocodile skins instead, he said.

“Feeding for skins is expected to see strong demand, because they are wanted in Vietnam, China, Thailand and Singapore,” Luon Nam said.

Crocodiles were sold for their skins at the age of three, when they had reached a length of 1.7 to 1.8 metres, Heng Sovannara, chief of the Crocodile Development Division at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said  One centimetre of skin sold for between $5 and $6, he said.

Sieam Reap-based farmer Toem Bun Seng said he was feeding about 500 crocodiles that he would sell for their skins.

Toem Bun Seng said he had moved away from selling hatchlings because of the volatility of the Vietnamese market. “I will increase the number of crocodiles I’m raising for skins next year,” he said, adding that he hoped the government would find ways to subsidise the growing industry.

Heng Sovannara said the government was encouraging farmers to focus on crocodile skins.

“We want farmers to think about the future, and that’s exporting skins,” he said.

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