An employee arranges crocodile pieces in the kitchen of Le Zoo Chez Felix restaurant in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Photo: Reuters

Harare - Crocodile meat could soon be on Zimbabweans’ menus due to continued depressed demand from traditional markets in Asia and Europe.

Zimbabweans mostly consume beef, pork and chicken but the agricultural sector has been on the decline since President Robert Mugabe’s government forcibly evicted white commercial farmers from their prime land, handing it over to inexperienced local farmers.

The agricultural sector devastation that followed has left the country a net importer of most commodities, with meat accounting for the greatest share of protein consumed. The country has banned poultry imports, from South Africa and as far as Brazil, in a bid to promote local producers, although experts say capacity is still low.

Padenga Holdings, the Zimbabwean-listed crocodile farming group, has announced that it was switching its marketing focus onto the local market. Crocodile meat is less popular in Zimbabwe although the company is aiming to push through significant volumes, which were facing take-up hurdles in the traditionally stronger Asian and European markets.

“Demand for crocodile meat in Asia and Europe remained depressed forcing us to start offering low value cuts, previously sold to Asia, into the local market,” group chairman Alexander Calder said on Friday.

In the 18 months to December last year, Padenga – which also runs an alligator farming business in the US – had sold total meat volumes of 209 tons, a 16 percent increase on the prior year. The company generates most of its income from crocodile and alligator skins as well as meat products. There is a thriving business for other by-products such as oils.

Revenue for the period amounted to $27 million (R284m) while cash generated from operating activities doubled to $8m. The operating profit for the period was $5.7m, which buoyed the company to declare a final dividend of 16 US cents.

Padenga has stated that it is developing a meatless diet for its animals in a bid to cut down on costs. The less meat diet for the group’s crocodiles and subdued demand for the reptilian meat on export markets is expected to push up local crocodile meat consumption volumes.