S Reap croc breeders calling it quits
More crocodile breeders in Siem Reap province are leaving the business as the price of hatchlings drops and demand falls to near zero.
Chak Vannak, an owner of a crocodile farm in the province which currently has about 200 adult females remaining, said sales are virtually nil.
The decline has cost him a lot of money, and he struggles to purchase fishmeal, he said. “Crocodiles are losing their marketability – even the number of buyers of fresh meat has dropped by a lot.”
He said the price for new hatchlings in April ranged between $8 and more than $10. However, the same hatchlings – now about 50cm long – are currently worth around $5, and buyers are very limited.
Last year, a crocodile hatchling had an average price of between $13 and $18.
Vannak said there have been recent media reports that breeders are killing the crocodiles to sell their leather and use their meat for feed.
Adult females, which were previously priced at around $600, are now $200, but there are no buyers either, he said.
The situation has led some breeders to sell all of their crocodiles, he said. “The prices yield in a loss, but if not sold, the loss will be greater due to the higher cost of the larger hatchlings’ feed.”
Currently, crocodile fishmeal imported from Thailand costs between 2,000 and 2,300 riel ($0.49 and $0.57) per kilogramme.
A member of the Crocodile Raising Association of Siem Reap, who wanted to be identified as “Hak”, said hatchlings can only be exported to Vietnam, and that both prices and demand have dropped in the last two years, with this year seeing a larger drop.
“The only checkpoint for exports is Vietnam. If they don’t buy, we will die,” he said, adding that he will wait and see next year’s demand and price before deciding whether or not to continue crocodile rearing.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data shows that there are around 700 crocodile farms in Cambodia, of which 445 have been registered with the ministry.
A ministry report in August said some 221,000 head of crocodiles were produced in the first eight months of this year, or 73.67 per cent of the 300,000 head planned.
The ministry’s Fishing Administration director Eng Chea San declined to comment, but he previously told The Post that the price of crocodiles had dropped, not just in Cambodia, but also in neighbouring countries.
He said the ministry has always strived to explore markets for the Kingdom’s crocodile breeders.
However, he admitted that it was complicated to do so because aside from Cambodia’s neighbouring countries, large countries like the US, Australia and Latin American countries have their 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 there,” he said.
A previous report by The Post said 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 internationally.