One of the most demanded Zambian export products is crocodile skin. Crocodile skin became even more popular after the ZCFA (Zambian Crocodile Farmer’s Association) improved the breeding and feeding practices over the past four years.
The industry now complies with world standards to meet the requirements of their very particular clients like Hermes and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, who manufacture high-end footwear, wallets, handbags and garments – a market estimated to be worth more than US$100 million per year.
But these improvements came with a huge price tag, because it disrupted the crocodile hide industry significantly. To make matters worse, just when the crocodile farmers were back on their feet, government slapped an export duty of 10% on the export of crocodile skins…
This duty will make Zambian crocodile skins uncompetitive in the global market. Still, it wasn’t even announced during the 2019/2020 budget speech and neither was there any consultation beforehand. To make matters worse, farmers had to pay the duty up front, which had to come out of their limited operational capital. On one stage, US$1,3 million of stock was stuck in cold storage facilities before the duties could be paid, while the subsequent harvests were causing a huge bottle neck. Farmers already paid more than US$350 000 that was not budgeted for. Farming operations were severely hampered.
Two farms already terminated operations, and many more are the on the brink of closing down. 600 jobs in rural areas are on the line should this industry collapse. The ZCFA has entered talks with the ministry to nullify this unwelcome surprise. Government hasn’t budged yet, despite having been informed that regulations regarding crocodile skins got confused with the general regulations of skins and hides. The Minister of Finance was recently invited to one of the crocodile farms to experience the industry and to get engaged in discussions.
Let’s hope 2020 will revolve into a better year for our crocodile farmers who exported 44 000 skins in 2015, 31 685 skins in 2018 and about 22 000 skins in 2019…
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