News Filed Under Catfish
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish producers are among the few Mississippi farmers happy with the current market situation.
Jim Steeby, district aquaculture agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Stoneville, said temperatures and markets have favored catfish farmers this year.
"This is shaping up to be one of our best years for catfish with the price of feed and the price of fish," Steeby said. "Catfish is definitely the only bright spot on the agriculture scene so far this year."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growing crawfish with rice has become a common way to produce this popular shellfish, but the practice has been more successful in Louisiana than it has in Mississippi.
In 1997, Louisiana landed almost 23 million pounds of crawfish worth nearly $13 million. The state produced another 47 million pounds through aquaculture at a value of nearly $28 million. Much of this crawfish is consumed in the state, and very little leaves the South.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Crawfish are showing up in restaurants and stores in large numbers and at falling prices as crawfish season is in full swing.
Crawfish season extends from November through May, but peaks in April. Prices currently in South Mississippi range from about $1.19 to $1.49 a pound live, and $2.09 to $2.19 a pound boiled. Prices are expected to drop at least 20 cents a pound next week as more crawfish flood the markets.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish that don't taste right when headed for the processing plant won't make it to the dinner table until they do, a setback that costs the industry millions of dollars a year.
Mississippi processed about 315 million pounds of catfish in 1997, making catfish one of the top four agribusinesses in the state. An important reason for the success of the industry is the consistently mild, sweet flavor of the fish grown in ponds.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Few catfish producers had reason to complain about this summer's heat as high temperatures have been good news for their industry's bottom line.
Jim Steeby, district aquaculture agent with Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Stoneville, said catfish eat more when the water is warm and put on weight quicker.
"We're 10 to 15 percent ahead of last year's feeding," Steeby said. "That means we'll have bigger catfish to take to market."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's catfish industry already leads the world in production, and in 1997 increased 22 percent to record a $380 million farm gate value in the state.
The latest figures show that Mississippi had 102,000 acres of catfish ponds as of Jan. 1, 1997. The United States had a total of 177,300. Twenty years ago, Mississippi had just 17,000 acres of catfish ponds.
Jim Steeby, area extension aquaculture agent in the Delta, said no other place in the nation is so uniquely equipped for catfish production.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's total value of production posted an new record of $4.9 billion, an increase of 3 percent from 1996. Casual observers might think a 3 percent change means little happened in Mississippi's 1997 farm economy.
"Several row crops had significant changes in their total value this year, but that was largely because of planted acreage changes," said Dr. John Robinson, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish processing in the state and country is up this year, but production is not as cool weather in the growing season means the fish are smaller.
Nationwide, catfish processing is up 12 percent from September 1996 with 43.5 million pounds processed in September. But the industry is expected to run short of large catfish by spring, given the numbers being processed now and the amount of feed gotten into the catfish.
BILOXI -- Mississippi shrimpers are enjoying the benefits of higher prices and a 1997 harvest coming in two waves.
Dave Burrage, extension marine resources specialist in Biloxi, said opening shrimp landings should be similar to June 1996 landings of 2.6 million pounds of tails-only shrimp. Comparable figures for this year are not yet available.
However, Biloxi, which has 80 percent of the state's processing capability, landed 749,500 pounds of heads-on shrimp the first week of the season. In 1996, shrimpers landed 624,100 pounds in Biloxi the first week.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A cool April and May have kept water temperatures low and slowed growth among the state's catfish.
Water temperatures recently have been well below 70 degrees, and by mid-May had only reached 67 to 72 degrees. Optimum temperatures for catfish growth is 80 to 85 degrees.
James Steeby, district extension agent for aquaculture in Belzoni, said cold water temperatures slow catfishes' eating and delay spawning. As cold-blooded creatures, water temperatures regulate catfish appetites, and they don't eat well when they are cold.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi River flooding and an open spillway northwest of New Orleans may spell disaster for the 1997-98 oyster harvest.
Oysters grow in the brackish (part salt) waters of the Sound, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico along the coastline. As the water is diluted to become freshwater, they die, said Dr. David Veal, director of the Mississippi State University Sea Grant Advisory Service in Biloxi.
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Just like Mississippi's row crop producers, catfish farmers have had their share of weather-related problems during the first half of 1996.
An early, cool spring that suddenly turned into hot summertime threw off feeding earlier in the year, but now there is an even keel.
Variations in temperature and pond conditions can stress the catfish, causing them to eat less and grow more slowly.
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.
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
STARKVILLE -- As Mississippi catfish producers head into their busiest time of the year, processing and prices are up, while fish supplies remain tight.
Both catfish processing and sales have been strong for the first quarter of 1995.
"Catfish processing is up 6.4 percent -- an increase of 9.4 million pounds from the first quarter of 1994," said Bill Allen, president of the Catfish Institute in Belzoni.
Allen said fish supplies have been tight through this spring, which is normal for this time of year.