Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 11, 1995. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Catfish Processing, Prices High for '95
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- High prices to growers and large volumes of fish processed through October combined to make 1995 a winning year for Mississippi's catfish industry.
The 1995 estimated value of farm production for Mississippi catfish is $301 million, up $21 million from last year. Catfish rose a notch in the state rankings this year, pushing ahead of soybeans, which dropped $61 million.
Catfish now ranks fourth on the state's top commodities list behind forestry, poultry and cotton, respectively.
Prices to growers remained steadily high throughout 1995, averaging in the upper 70 cents per pound.
Dr. Marty Brunson, extension leader in wildlife and fisheries at Mississippi State University, said by the end of 1995, nationwide catfish processing should be up about 15 million pounds from last year.
"Nationwide, processing is 369 million pounds for the first 10 months of the year -- 11 million pounds above the same period last year," Brunson said. "The volume of fish processed in the state for 1995 will exceed the amounts processed in recent years."
Catfish boasts the highest total linkage multiplier in the state. The total linkage multiplier reflects a commodity's true economic value to the state -- the effect it has on local and state economies, jobs and incomes.
"Most everything to do with catfish -- the growing, harvesting, processing, feed manufacturing, transportation and associated support industries all take place in Mississippi," Brunson said. "So more dollars are generated in the state for every dollar earned by the growers than with any other commodity."
Catfish is one of the few Mississippi crops that did not suffer significant damage from the late summer drought.
"Although we did have some problems with water quality during the hot weather, feeding activity is good during warm, sunny days," Brunson said. "The high prices growers received for their fish allowed them to buy the feed they needed to take advantage of the good feeding weather."
Some of the early cool temperatures this fall slowed feeding down, which will result in slowed growth through the winter months and possible tight supplies going into 1996.
"Farm prices are expected to remain stable, especially if the supply of food-size fish in early 1996 is as tight as expected," Brunson said. "This is good news as far as prices to growers, but somewhat frustrating news to state processors, who struggle with the tight supplies."
Nationwide, the number of catfish operations fell again in 1995 to 1,267.
In Mississippi, the number of producers has remained relatively stable, with a slight decrease in the Delta area but increases in the developing East Mississippi farms.
"The catfish industry appears to be following the same path as most other livestock industries toward fewer but larger production units," Brunson said.