LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. — Crawfish season could have you crawling back into your wallet this year as prices for the mudbugs are forecast to be higher than 2022.
LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant Crawfish Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Specialist Dr. Mark Shirley says inflation is already driving up prices for farmers.
“Prices are a bit higher than last year which was higher than the previous year,” Shirely said. “That’s due to inflation pressure on farmers and processers who deliver.”
The economy is impacting farmer’s from every angle, Shirley said.
“The price of bait has gone up 20 to 25-percent,” Shirley said. “Farmers are also contending with higher fuel costs to pump up ponds and maintain water quality.”
Shirley noted that the first harvest of crawfish is traditionally higher, but he does expect prices to go down when the season peaks in March and April.
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Current Crawfish Harvest
Shirley says that the crawfish crop is trending upward.
“There’s plenty of crawfish in the ponds right now with a variety of sizes,” he said. “The prognosis does look good for a good supply of crawfish well into May. We’re going to have a good supply of crawfish.”
But cold snaps and waves of rain inundating Louisiana have the mudbugs taking their time to come out of their cozy burrows.
“When the water temps dip below 60-degrees, the crawfish slow down,” Shirley noted. “There’s a lot of small crawfish being caught right now along with some of the older crawfish that survived last year. The catch right now is mixed as far as size goes, but it’s trending up right now.”
Shirley says that while the crawfish may be a little lethargic because of the winter weather, he expects this year’s harvest to be plentiful.
“Things are going according to Mother Nature’s plan,” he said. “Rain and cool weather is helping flush the fields with fresh water and keep oxygen levels up, so that’s good news for the season as a whole.”
“Don’t wait to enjoy some crawfish. Farmers are out in this weather, it’s cold and nasty, but a lot of crawfish farmers have been busy harvesting. Help out your … Louisiana farmers.”
Crawfish and Rice
Crawfish farmers will be spending February and the beginning of March evaluating the harvest and just how much inflation will impact their bottom lines, Shirley said.
“If prices are too high, some farmers may drain the crawfish ponds and plant their fields with rice,” he added.
Shirley says about half of all crawfish farmers alternate their crawfish ponds with rice every other year. Both need clay soil to thrive, so the field conditions are ideal for both.
“(Farmers with ) those rotational fields do have the option to drain early and plant a rice crop,” he said. “So farmers are having to make their management decision to maximize their profit.”
Farmers only have a small window to switch their crops if they choose. Shirley said that March and early April is the ideal time to plant rice.
“The later you plant rice in Southwest Louisiana, you run into insect problems and you’re pushing your harvest into peak hurricane season. So, there’s a risk in planting a rice harvest late.”
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