Vietnam croc farms suffer as Chinese market shrinks

The price of crocodiles raised for their skin on Vietnamese farms has been plummeting amid China’s economic slowdown, forcing farmers to lower prices, close farms, or sell their products at a loss.

The information was made public at a conference on ‘Alignment for Enhanced Competitiveness of Crocodile Products’ in Ho Chi Minh City on November 15.

China’s shrinking purchasing power has taken a toll on Vietnam’s crocodile farmers, who mainly rely on exporting the reptile to their northern neighbor, Tran Tan Quy, deputy director of the municipal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said at the conference.

Many farms have had to close down, Quy said.

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A group of crocodiles at a farm in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City

Over 160,000 freshwater crocodiles are being raised for their skin on farms in Ho Chi Minh City, but less than 15% (around 23,000 crocodiles) have been exported so far this year, according to the deputy director.

An additional 6,808 metric tons of salted crocodile skin and 6,121 metric tons of crocodile leather were also exported over the same period, adding to the city’s total export value of VND52 billion (US$2.32 million) in crocodile products.

“There has been a significant drop in the number of crocodile farms in Ho Chi Minh City in recent years,” Quy said at the conference.

Meanwhile, Dao Van Dang, deputy chief of the city’s Forest Protection Department, pointed out that of the 12 companies, two cooperatives, and 28 households currently running crocodile farms in the city, only four companies meet standards set out by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES is an international agreement between governments which looks to ensure that international trade in wild plants and animals does not threaten their survival.

CITES southern representative Thai Tuyen asserted that conservation agreements, such as CITES, make it difficult for Vietnamese crocodile exporters to find alternatives to Chinese buyers.

The price of live crocodiles has dropped by VND5,000-VND7,000 (US$0.2-0.3) per kilogram in the last month, hitting the new bottom of VND40,000-60,000 (US$1.8-2.7) per kilogram, according to crocodile farmers at the conference.

At such a low price, farmers are selling their products at losses of VND30,000-VND50,000 (US$1.3-2.2) per kilogram, Nguyen Van Thanh from the Southern Crocodile Breeding Cooperative said at the conference.