Australia's Northern Territory (NT) crocodile industry has been undervalued for years, according to an independent report.
The EY report, commissioned by the NT Government and the Crocodile Farmers Association NT (CFANT), found the overall value of the industry in 2014/15 was $107m to the tourism, farming and veterinary sectors. The industry also created 264 full-time jobs in that time.
The new figures are over four times previous federal government valuations of $25m.
Speaking to ABC Radio Darwin, NT chief minister Michael Gunner said it was critical that the industry was valued correctly.
“We know that our beloved crocodiles are a massive tourism magnet to the territory, but now we also know just how much the farming industry plays in terms of their economic impact and potential,” he said.
“This helps us in mounting our case to the federal government for support for the industry in how we export.”
Crocodile skins are highly sought after as luxury fashion products, fetching thousands of dollars when made into bags, shoes and other accessories.
The crocodiles that supply the fashion industry are raised in captivity to ensure unblemished skin, compared with the battle-scarred skins on wild crocodiles, according to CFANT.
Mick Burns, president of the CFANT, told ABC that saltwater crocodiles had the most sought-after skin of all 23 species of crocodile.
“It’s got a small-scale pattern, it's obviously got something in its makeup that make it easier to work with and easier to tan,” he said.
“The small scale structure makes it very appealing on products.”
Burns added that luxury fashion labels such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes buy skins from local farms, such as the Darwin Crocodile Farm.
Australia accounts for 60% of global trade in saltwater crocodile skins, with about two-thirds of that coming from the NT, according to a 2015 report by the CFANT.
Gunner said the report showed the crocodile farming industry was already making an important contribution to economic development in the area but would be particularly important to remote indigenous communities in the future.
“Saltwater crocodiles have an enormous economic potential in terms of income, employment, technology innovation and economic development particularly in remote Aboriginal communities,” he said.
“The private and public sector both play and important role in future development of this industry and the NT government will continue to work in partnership with the CFANT to grow and develop future economic opportunities.”