HARARE - European demand for crocodile meat from Zimbabwe is firming up while commercial prices for quality skins of the reptile have been steady and this has buoyed Harare listed Padenga Holdings which is expecting to cull and market 46 000 skins this year.

Padenga keeps its crocodiles at about four farms in Kariba where it is to build an independent power plant. This comes as wild crocodiles have been causing a chaos in Zimbabwe, with attacks and deaths from gruesome encounters with the reptiles becoming common.

Heavy rains have been pounding Zimbabwe and crocodiles are moving upstream, wildlife experts say. This could prove a boon for Padenga which also collects wild crocodile eggs for its operations, now benefiting from selling meat by-products to Europe.

“The demand from Europe for premium crocodile meat cuts increased during the period (2017) and export prices firmed as a consequence. Total meat volumes sold increased by nine percent to 256 tonnes,” Alexander Calder, chairman of Padenga Holdings said on Friday.

Average prices for crocodile meat cuts received by Padenga during the period under review firmed by 45 percent owing to a shift in the sales mix towards “premium value” meat products. 

Crocodiles are among the many animals whose skins are being traded legally. Picture:Marilyn Bernard
Turnover from the crocodile meat category, which is a by-product of the company’s core business of crocodile skins, resultantly strengthened by 57 percent over the prior year. 

The  company has previously pursued a potential market for meat exports into Asia for burgers designed as crocodiles.

But its core business of crocodile skins has also performed well, said executives, as demand for top quality skins remains high. Prices for the skins has remained steady on global markets although this requires that the company put in place measures to enhance the quality of skins of its animals.

“The Zimbabwe operation is expected to sell 46 000 premium quality skins in 2018. Demand for top quality skins remains steady and prices are expected to hold,” said Calder.

Basic earnings per share for Padenga for 2017 increased to 2.40 cents from 1.65 cents in 2016 although revenue dipped from $31.2 million to $30.6 million. This was after the company harvested 46035 crocodiles in the year to end December 2017 which was a four percent decline on the prior year culling figure.

The skin quality for the 2017 operations was also lower, having declined from 95 percent in terms of quality to 89 percent. The skin quality was “negatively impacted by a combination of poor water quality resultant from low lake water levels in late 2016 and early 2017 and unnaturally low average ambient temperatures” at the crocodile farms.

Padenga is seeking to expand and consolidate its operations, having constructed eighty new grower pens. It closed the year with 157 675 grower crocodiles “on the ground” as it gears  for a lucrative outlook.

The company will commission a solar power plant this year to provide electricity for its northern farms as it embraces alternative and renewable energy solutions. Zimbabwe has 
power deficits which force it to import additional electricity from South Africa and Mozambique.

Although crocodiles have been brisk business for Padenga, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority said on Friday attacks from the ferocious reptiles are on the increase while in the wildlife resort area of Hwange, a large crocodile had to be shot dead by parks rangers  after it blocked entrance to a hospital this week.

“We have been receiving several reports on crocodile attacks; therefore we urge all the people in communities especially where there are water bodies to desist from crossing rivers, whenever possible,” said Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the parks and wildlife authority.

- BUSINESS REPORT