SA crocodile farmers must adapt to survive
Farmer's Weekly|May 07, 2021
Local crocodile farmers have come under pressure due to an increase in international supply and the recent drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Wouter Kriel spoke to Stefan van As, chairperson of the South African Crocodile Industry Association, about the challenges facing crocodile farmers.
Wouter Kriel

What is the size of the crocodile industry in South Africa?

The exact number of crocodile farms is not known, because each province issues its own permits for keeping crocodiles in captivity. In 2016, the veterinary faculty at the University of Pretoria carried out a survey of crocodile farms in South Africa and arrived at an estimated 85 facilities in existence. The production data collected from 45 of the largest commercial crocodile farms, responsible for more than 80% of total production output, indicated a breeding population of approximately 20 000 adult animals, producing an average of 165 000 hatchlings annually. Statistics show that only 68 000 skins, or 40%, are exported.

The balance do not achieve the minimum quality required for export and the reptiles are slaughtered and consumed locally, sold live to new entrants, or used as breeding stock.

How would you describe general conditions within the industry?

Two prime products are derived from commercial crocodile farming. First are the belly skins, with crocodile leather being considered the finest of all exotic leathers; these are predominantly used for belts, shoes, wallets and handbags. Second is crocodile meat, for which there is a local market.

World trade in Nile crocodile [Crocodylus niloticus] skins averages approximately 240 000 skins annually. The Nile skin trade comprises 30% of total world trade in classic crocodile skins, which consists of Alligator spp, C. niloticus, C. porosus (saltwater crocodile) and C. siamensis (Siamese crocodile) skins. As noted, South Africa exports on average 68 000 skins per annum; this represents 28% of total Nile skins traded and 9% of total world classic skins traded.

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