The Zambian Crocodile Farmers Association has commended government’s move to suspend export duty on crocodile skins as part of measures to support the economy amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu on Friday announced various measures that government is undertaking to cushion business from the economic impact posed by the virus outbreak.
“In order to provide relief to businesses, government will suspend export duty on precious metals and crocodile skins,” Ng’andu told a news conference in Lusaka.
Kalimba Farm Board Chair and Zambia Crocodile Farmers Association Publicity Secretary Bill Thomas welcomed the suspension and noted it came at an opportune time when the industry faced severe challenges and liquidity problems due to the high export duty imposed in the 2019 Budget.
“We are grateful that the honourable minister and the government has listened to industry and seen the wider benefits of easing this burden on the sector,” said Mr Thomas. “This suspension of duty essentially saves the industry from collapse and will go a long way to protecting rural jobs and generating foreign exchange earnings.”
Furthermore it is hoped that in the not too distant future, finished crocodile products will be available for both the domestic, tourism and export markets.”
In January 2020, government introduced a 10 percent levy that required crocodile farmers to pay duty, up front, before they exported their produce. Because of the tax, crocodile skins valued at about US$1.3 million remained in cold storage due to the inability of some farmers to pay the tax; at least two crocodile farms closed and two others were planning to cease operations.
Mr Thomas said that Zambia’s crocodile skins were prized the world over for high-end footwear, handbags and garments, offering employment to at least a thousand people locally. And that, any negative shocks to the industry could lead to job losses, loss of revenue to government and worse, the collapse of the sub-sector.
In 2018, Zambia exported about 31,685 farmed crocodile skins, but in 2019 the exports are estimated to have slumped to 22,000, a third of what was exported in 2015.
The global market for crocodile skins – which are used to manufacture luxury items like high-end footwear, handbags, leather accessories, belts and wallets sold by such companies as Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton – is valued at about US$100 million.
Crocodile meat is also considered a delicacy in some Asian countries, and is rapidly gaining popularity in the local market.
Crocodile farming is a niche business that in Africa is dominated by Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.