Phnom Penh (dpa) – Cambodian crocodile farmers are hoping to sell their reptile skins directly to European fashion houses for the first time, a governmental official said Monday.
French luxury consortium Kering and subsidiary France Croco will launch a pilot project next month to source crocodile skins from Cambodia, said Nao Thuok, director-general of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration.
An initial shipment of 1,000 skins will be sent next month, according to local media, although most will be of lower quality.
If the pilot project is successful it will be a major coup for Cambodian crocodile farmers, as it will mark their first direct entry into the European market, he said.
The crocodile skins are likely to be made into handbags, shoes or watchstraps by Kering, known for its high-end luxury brands including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and Gucci.
Cambodia already sells low-quality skins and live crocodiles to China, Vietnam, and Thailand, but the government is encouraging farmers to add value by increasing the quality of the reptiles’ skins.
“[Cambodian crocodile] skins are not good because of the water quality, quality of the food and also the high density of crocodiles in one farm,” he said.
There are approximately 500 crocodile farms in Cambodia, primarily based in Siem Reap province, which is also home to the ancient temple of Angkor Wat.
The Kering deal would also include a provision for the company to release a number of baby crocodiles into the wild in exchange for the number of skins purchased, Nao Thouk said.