On the other hand, alligators will be smiling because less hunters will be hunting them.
When there was a worldwide demand for luxury items with alligator hides, prices soared as high as $60 per foot but averaged around $40 per foot.
Today, the worldwide economy has fallen off, along with the demand for luxury items, which has dropped the price of alligator hides.
According to Wayne Sagrera, who owns and operates Vermilion Gator Farm Inc. in the Seventh Ward Area, the prices are so low that many fishermen are not killing alligators this year, and the gator farm is limiting its purchase of hides.
“My phone is ringing off the wall from people wanting to know if we are buying hides,” said Sagrera. “I am only buying from my regular customers.”
A wild gator that is seven feet or longer sells for around $12 to $15 a foot. A 10-foot gator at $13 per foot will be purchased for $130. When the price was $40 per foot, that same gator was purchased for $400.
The average wild gator is about six feet long. That price today is $8 a foot, which brings in $48 to the hunter.
A five foot gator is purchased for $5 a foot or only $25.
The reason for the drop in prices is basic economics - supply and demand. There are a lot of good alligators skins on the world market and not a lot of demand for them.
Plus, Sagrera said, there is even a less demand for wild alligator skins because the hides are not perfect. Wild skins are damaged, which brings down the price.
“The market demands quality hides,” he said.
A big market for the gator hides is for watch straps.
While the worldwide market is awful for wild alligators, it is not much better for farmed raised gators. Sagrera’s gators, which average around five feet in length, do have higher quality of skins than wild gators. Selling the skins is not that easy despite the quality. He may have to sit on this year’s crop of skins for a year before he sells them.
Louisiana alligator farmers are also having to compete with farmers from Africa who are growing larger alligators with quality skins.
The price to farm alligators has increased by 80 percent over the years, while the selling price has dropped. by 50 percent. Over the last two years, Vermilion Gator Farm has lost money because of the little demand for gator hides and high cost of raising the alligators.
Sagrera is in the business to make money and if gator farming does not get better over the next 18 months, he said, the doors will close on the farm.
“Enough is enough,” he added.