The price of baby crocodiles this year has risen almost 30 percent from last, driven by high demand from Vietnam, with government officials warning that selling live crocodiles can incur losses for farmers.
The price of crocodile offspring, which vendors buy from farms for export to Vietnam, increased from $14 per animal last year to $18, according to crocodile farm owners.
Kiri Sokhom, a crocodile farmer in Siem Reap province, who raises more than 500 mature crocodiles, said that the price rise will initially be a positive thing.
However, he believes that the price will decline as more supply hits the market.
“Prices are always high at the beginning, but at the end of the season prices will go down so many raising crocodiles could face losses,” he said.
Another crocodile raiser, Lim Rithy, who is also a member of the Crocodile Raising Association of Siem Reap, said that earlier this year traders increased buying to export more animals to Vietnam.
“The baby crocodiles are bought from Cambodia and sold to Vietnamese crocodile farm owners,” he said, adding that Vietnamese farmers raise the reptiles for their skin, which is often exported to China.
One crocodile broker, who gave his name only as Vichet, said that every year he buys baby crocodiles from Cambodia to bring to Vietnam where the price is set by buyers.
Most crocodile farmers in Cambodia sell live reptiles rather than hides, which one government official said could spell potential losses for the sector.
Nao Thouk, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said most of Cambodia’s crocodile offspring are exported to Vietnam and Thailand, while occasionally to China.
While welcoming rising prices, he believes that raising the animals for their skin would add more value to the sector.
“Usually the price of crocodile skin fluctuates with the international market, and products made with crocodile skin command a higher price,” he said.
“[Farmers] can earn between $200 and $300 for the skin [of a crocodile] only a year or two years old,” he said. “As far as I know, only Cambodia has the practice of raising crocodiles for the purpose of hatching and then selling them – others raise them for the skin and export at a high price.”
According to Ministry of Agriculture data, there are around 700 crocodile farms in Cambodia, of which 445 have been registered with the Ministry of Agriculture.