THE value of crocodile hatchlings has increased this year due to a growing demand for the meat from regional buyers, according to the sector’s largest producers.
“The price continues to increase year to year because of increasing trade with China and Vietnam,” said Kaing Sarin, proprietor of a two hectare farm in Kandal province’s Kandal Steung district.
Many brokers from Vietnam have started purchasing hatchlings from Cambodia to raise over the border and sell to buyers on the Chinese market, he claimed.
“There is high demand for crocodile meat in Vietnam and China, they enjoy eating it.”
Kaing Sarin added that a number of farmers sold off breeding crocodiles because of a decline in hatchling prices, however, this resulted in prices again rising.
Last year, the farm sold almost 10,000 hatchlings at US$19 to $20 each to Vietnamese middlemen, he added.
“This year, I hope for 13,000 new crocodiles to be hatched, which will be sold at $28 per head,” said Kaing Sarin, who has invested $600,000 in his farming business of more than 3,000 breeding crocodiles.
Farmers in Siem Reap are pleased with the price increases, however, they are also struggling to capitalise on the situation because of a lack of hatchlings.
“The last two years have been strong for selling crocodile hatchlings, but we don’t have many left,” said Khoeu Chhin, who has raised the aquatic reptiles on a half-hectare farm since 1997.
He witnessed a modest jump in hatchling sales this year, from 3,000 to 7,000 and wants to further expand the business.
The rise in value of hatchlings is primarily down to strong demand from the Chinese market, according to Director General of the Department of the Fisheries Association Nao Thouk.
“The leap in prices this year will push crocodile farmers in the Kingdom to spend more on their production,” he said.
Cambodian farms do not yet raise crocodiles for their skin, which requires a larger capital investment, he added.
“[Foreign] buyers purchase crocodile hatchlings in Cambodia to raise for skin and meat,” he said.
During 2010, Cambodia’s crocodile farms bred a total of 185,000 hatchlings, according to a previous report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. It added farms are mainly in Kandal, Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, and Kampong Thom provinces.