The Australian saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) industry, with its 21 operators in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, plays a significant role in the Australian economy, particularly in the north. The industry is renowned for producing high-quality crocodile skins that cater to the luxury fashion market, as well as meat and other by-products.
Although comprehensive data on the market value is scarce, the industry’s value-added contribution in the NT alone amounted to $54.3 million in 2014-15. Given the industry’s growth and expansion across Australia, the current value is expected to be substantially higher.
As saltwater crocodiles are a protected species, the industry operates under the scrutiny of governments, international conventions, animal advocates and customers, ensuring the preservation of this species while contributing to the economy. The industry’s ability to influence policies and decisions that impact it hinges on establishing strong relationships with other industry bodies, governments and regulatory authorities. Despite the absence of a national peak body, the Crocodile Farmers Association of Northern Territory (CFANT) remains active. A recent survey revealed that 89% of the industry supports the formation of a national body.
This comprehensive RD&E Plan exemplifies the industry’s collaborative potential. The Plan outlines five key themes that, if diligently addressed, will ensure the industry not only retains its social licence but also continually enhances its efficiency and profitability. This strategic approach underscores the industry’s commitment to sustainable and successful practices.
The five themes identified by industry to ensure its resilience and capability are: (1) Environmental sustainability and social licence; (2) Production efficiency; (3) Skin quality; (4) Value-added by-products; and (5) Resilient and capable industry.
Despite being a relatively small global producer of crocodile skins, Australia operates at the premium end of the market. However, it faces higher operational costs compared to many other exporting countries. Therefore, a focus on enhancing production efficiency is crucial for the industry to realise its vision of being ethical, sustainable and profitable.
Continual improvement in productivity and product quality, especially of skins, is another critical goal. The industry also produces by-products that are transformed into curio items and sold in the thriving tourism sector often linked to crocodile farms. There is a potential opportunity for value adding, particularly in the beauty and eastern medicinal industry, using other parts of the crocodile.