SeaFood Business

MAR 2014

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To p Species 36 SeaFood Business March 2014 Visit us online at www.seafoodbusiness.com "We realize our fate is in the hands of the savvy consumer who is looking for information." — Roger Barlow, president, The Catfsh Institute because there's "not a lot of up-and-coming whitefsh." Having seen both peaks and valleys in the past, Rhodes says it's incumbent on leaders in the catfsh in- dustry to "try and build on the positive. We have had a quality product for over 40 years and we should push it forward. We can resurrect what we had." Rhodes says the industry has learned its lesson, and the focus now needs to be on proftability and consistency. Looking at the industry overall, Superior Catfsh's Johnson says, "It does seem like we're still trying to get stable. I see some for- ward movement to stabilize the industry." Stabilization is also the word Barlow applies to the state of domestic catfsh. "Te last couple of years, we saw a reduction in the num- ber of acres devoted to catfsh and the number of farmers," he says. Record-high feed prices caused some farmers to exit the market, turning their ponds into felds for crops, but that trend has slowed. declined 7 percent, totaling 83,000 acres, down from 89,400 the previous year. And total operator numbers were 624 in 2013, down 13 percent from 718 in 2012. Yet processing volume in- creased 11 percent this past year, according to Dr. Terry Hanson, associate profes- sor and aquaculture econo- mist at Auburn University's Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture. Te in- dustry processed 334 million pounds (round weight) in 2013 vs. 300 million pounds in 2012. Barlow attributes the uptick to improvements in the growing and the pro- duction processes. Catering to the core Superior Catfsh Products has been processing about 400,000 pounds a week, which is the normal amount in the pre-Lenten season, says Johnson. Production is up from last fall, he says, but down a bit from two years ago, although that slight dip isn't associated with any particular issue. Sales, Johnson adds, "are running par for the course." Most of the catfsh handled by Superior stays within fve or six surrounding states. Catfsh has a core fol- lowing, says Johnson, so he doesn't see many people turning away from the spe- cies. But he isn't seeing many converts. Imports are still a pres- ence, he says, and the econ- omy is what usually dictates if someone is going to move away from catfsh to some- thing less expensive. Prices have been holding at about $1.10 per pound to the farmer, which translates to between $4 and $5 a pound retail for fllets, says Johnson. Catfsh's biggest competi- tor, pangasius imports, can still be had for less than $2 a pound, however. "Customers are willing to pay the price now," he says, "but we might see some people go to [imports] if price becomes an issue." Feed prices, which are up about $150 a ton over fve years ago, have eased some- what, he says, but further de- creases aren't likely. With the 20 to 30 cents more per fsh that they are getting, the in- creased feed prices have been ofset somewhat. Although the unusually cold weather in the South this year has had a bit of an impact, Randy Rhodes, president of Harvest Select in Northport, Ala., doesn't anticipate too many issues. Tere could be a shortage of supply or a limit on certain sizes, he says, but that won't be known for sure until the ponds are emptied. Rhodes has seen an uptick in catfsh demand, in part Model 1500SM Holiday Ice, Inc. 204 Short Ave., Longwood, FL 32750 Phone (407) 831-2077 Toll Free (800) 362-3243 ncreanza@holiday-ice.com www.holiday-ice.com 10,000 pounds of hard cracked ice in 24 hours. Quality Industrial Ice Machines Since 1959 - Electrical V/HZ/PH: 208/230/460-3-60 200/400-3-50 - R-404A Refrigerant. - USDA Approved. - Self-contained: pre-piped, Model 1500SM pre-wired, and pre-charged for easy installaton. - Also available in remote configuraton. 34_38TopSpecies.indd 36 2/19/14 1:00 PM

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