July 11, 2011


US Arkansas' catfish farm output declines



Once the second largest catfish producer in the US, Arkansas' farm-raised catfish state-wide is down 35% and imported catfish is up 51%, according to the USDA.


From about a dozen listed fish farmers, only two were still struggling in the business.


Some farmers attribute it to tougher government regulations, then there's foreign competition and the high gas prices that make the cost of feed go up and so on. It all adds up to a fading Arkansas business.


For more than 20-year the Dorey's pride themselves in raising Arkansas catfish. Tudy Dorey recalls, "We were processing in the plant 45,000-60,000 pounds of catfish a day."


But in 2000 they made the difficult decision to close their plant, 140 employees were out of work. She adds, "If you add the suppliers, farmers, all the jobs that went with that, there were probably 1,000 jobs lost."


So they turned the small plant into Dorey's Catfish Buffet; they still raise catfish but not commercially.


Still, it doesn't help the fact that US catfish is in short supply and the Dorey's refuse to buy foreign-raised or pass the cost on to the customer.


In May the average price to producers was a US$1.17, that's up US$0.028 from June and US$0.373 from last year, a sign of the times that continuous to put farmers out of business.


"We don't have enough farmers producing now so that's why so many people are having to go to the foreign fish." Dorey continues, "We still have the same quality of fish that we started out with and we will continue to do that, we only serve US farm raised catfish."


So you have an idea of one reason the local catfish farming business is struggling, last year nearly 17-million pounds of catfish was imported, up about 44% from the year before.

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