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A Northern Territory crocodile farm is expanding its operations to meet the growing demand for high quality leather by major international fashion labels. Darwin Crocodile Farm has about 73,000 crocodiles and currently supplies leather to prominent French and Italian designers, including to Louis Vuitton and Hermes.
Owner Mick Burns says the designers are “unbelievably and unreasonably fussy” when it comes to the leather they want for their handbags.
"Customers overseas are increasing the demand for a higher quality skins, there's no doubt about that," he says.
The expansion aims to give the existing reptiles more room to grow, which in turns leads to better quality leather. Burns says giving the reptiles more room means they're less likely to fight and damage each others skins.
"Our species of crocodile is the most aggressive species of crocodiles so with that we've got to manage animal husbandry and animal behaviour. They're a lot more aggressive than the Nile crocs or the American alligator so we've got to be much more on our game than they do or we get a lot more scars. There's a number of issues that affect the skin, some of them we understand, some of them we don't."
The other challenge comes from abroad - crocodile leather is being produced cheaply in Asia, threatening more expensive Australian operations.
Burns says it's difficult to compete with them on price, so instead he needs to boost the quality of his own product.
"As there's an increase in quantity, quality is becoming very important," he says.
"That's why we're doing what we're doing, to make sure we lead the world in the quality of the skins we produce for the European buyers."
He expects the expansion of his farm will double the Territory's $20 million dollar (US$18.8 million) crocodile leather industry.
Source: ABC Rural