The crocodile farming industry in Cambodia is facing uncertainty due to a lack of demand and increasing costs of crocodile feed, which has led to some breeders to reduce their operations.

There are many crocodile farms in the Kingdom – especially in Siem Reap province – most of which operate by selling crocodile hatchlings to Vietnamese buyers rather than raising them to adulthood for their leather.

Lim Rithy, a member of the Crocodile Raising Association of Siem Reap, said crocodile breeding in the province is not currently good due to a shortage of orders from Vietnamese dealers.

“Cambodia does not have a domestic market, we mainly rely on the Vietnamese market,” he said. “Vietnam is China’s main supplier of crocodiles, so when they get orders from China, they come to collect them from Cambodia.”

Because Vietnamese and Thai technology is more advanced, crocodile feed there grows faster than in Cambodia, he said.

According to Rithy, Chinese traders had previously expressed their desire to buy crocodile leather directly from the Kingdom, but currently none have done so after discovering that shipping costs are higher than in Vietnam.

“I would like the government to explore potential markets [so that we] can compete with our neighbours,” he said.

Rithy said breeding crocodiles for their leather domestically would be difficult because of a lack of investment, as well as no support from authorities, has diminished breeders’ confidence.

In a span of a mere five years, Rithy has reduced his inventory of crocodiles from 4,000-5,000 to just 200-300 today.

“If the situation continues, I will sell them all and stop breeding,” he said. “I think that crocodile hatchling prices this year will be lower than last year,” he said.

Last year, a crocodile hatchling had an average price of between $13 and $18.

Another crocodile farmer in the province, who asked to remain anonymous, said the issues faced by crocodile breeding has led some farmers to abandon the practice and seek another job instead.

“Most Cambodian crocodile breeders expect crocodile hatchlings to fetch a high price, but it is hard to gain profit,” he said.

In the province, there may be between 300,000 and 400,000 crocodiles.

Eng Cheasan, director-general of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the ministry has always strived to explore markets for the Kingdom’s crocodile breeders.

However, he admits that the current market is difficult because aside from Cambodia’s neighbouring countries, large countries like the US, Australia and Latin American countries have their own crocodile breeders.

“I believe that the need and use of crocodile leather is falling all around the world – particularly because of animal and nature advocates who are pushing for the use of fabric and plastic products instead,” he said.

“We are currently trying to connect with Chinese buyers and bring Cambodian crocodile leather directly to the market,” he said.

According to a previous report by The Post, a total of 22 crocodile farms in Cambodia have been approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) to export crocodile leather to internationally.

According to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, there are about 700 crocodile farms in Cambodia, of which 445 are registered with the ministry.