Charles Lutz, Blanchard, Tobie M. | 1/19/2006 11:55:54 PM
As crawfish season nears, consumers have many questions. What will the crawfish be like this year? How much will crawfish cost?
Because of last year’s weather – both hurricanes and drought conditions – those questions do not have clear answers, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
"It’s always a supply-and-demand situation, and both sides of the situation are anybody’s guess," said LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist Dr. Greg Lutz.
When it comes to supply, some areas experienced drought-like conditions during periods of the past year, and that factor could affect this year’s crop. Dry weather can hinder survival of crawfish in the burrows, which affects reproduction. It also can affect emergence of the crawfish from the burrows.
"Generally emergence is related to rainfall," Lutz explained. "You hear a lot of old-timey people say the crawfish won’t come out until they hear rainfall, and there is a lot of truth to that."
David Savoy, president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmer’s Association, said he is not expecting a good year.
"It’s going to be a short season, and I’m not looking for large volume until maybe April," Savoy said.
Producers started harvesting crawfish in December and early January, but many have stopped because it was not profitable to continue. Savoy said the crawfish they were catching were small.
Although Hurricane Katrina missed most crawfish-producing areas, Hurricane Rita was a different story. That storm brought water – and in some areas salty water – to crawfish ponds, lowering the oxygen levels in these ponds.
"A lot of that acreage is not going to be in production this season. It was under water too long too early," Lutz said.
Even more, many producers were late in flooding their fields because of the storm and the high price of diesel.
"Most of the crawfish farmers are rice farmers who are in a bind to begin with," explained Savoy. "They are coming off one of their best production years for rice and can’t make a profit, and now they are faced with low crawfish supply."
Katrina certainly affected the demand side of the situation, as well, since the hurricane displaced many of Louisiana’s crawfish consumers. Lutz says this could be a problem on one hand, but on the other, it offers an opportunity to market crawfish in new areas.
"I’m certain that a lot of people from Louisiana that still find themselves in another part of the state or out of state are going to be introducing their friends to crawfish this coming year." Lutz said.
Savoy said the hurricane also has brought an influx of people into New Orleans – many of whom are anxious to try this Cajun cuisine.
"People are begging for it, but there isn’t much there." Savoy said. "It’s going to be a seller’s market with nothing to sell."