Rising grain prices are weighing on the Arkansas catfish industry.
Four states – Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas – produce 97% of catfish sales in the United States. U.S. catfish sales were $ 371 million in 2020, a 2% decrease from $ 380 million the previous year.
Last year, U.S. catfish production from farm-bred catfish was £ 324 million from 59,305 acres of water. Arkansas produced 15.7 million of those pounds from 3,900 acres worth $ 16.6 million.
Arkansas ranks third behind Mississippi and Alabama on the food inventory as of July 1, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Foodsize” is defined as fish that are 0.75 to heavier than three pounds. The same report showed that Arkansas had 9.5 million stockfish, 2% more than a year ago.
Sinking pond area
In 2002, Arkansas had 37,500 acres of ponds for catfish production.
“By 2021, the industry will be one-tenth that size at just 3,700 acres,” said Scott Stiles, expansion economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “One reason for the decline is a sharp rise in feed prices from 2007 to 2013.
“From 2007 to 2013, the state’s catfish industry lost 22,200 hectares of water, a decrease of 73 percent.”
Stiles said catfish feed prices are largely determined by grain prices. What the catfish industry calls “32 percent feed” typically contains 30 to 44% soybean meal and 15 to 20% corn.
“Feed costs make up about 50 percent of the total cost of ownership for catfish farmers,” he said.
“The US average price of soybean meal rose 160 percent from $ 189 per tonne in 2006 to a high of $ 490 per tonne in 2013,” said Stiles. “During the same period, average US corn prices soared to record highs, peaking at $ 6.89 per bushel in 2012.”
And the news of the grain market only got worse for the catfish breeders.
“In 2021, average soybean meal prices are projected to be the highest since 2013 at $ 395 per ton,” he said. “When feed costs are high, breeders can switch to 28 percent feed to reduce costs. However, this option is still expensive as breeders paid $ 482 a ton for floating feed last week . “
If there is any ray of hope for producers, it is fish prices.
“Fortunately, catfish prices are a little better than last year’s average of $ 1.06 a pound,” Stiles said. “Current farm-level prices are in the range of $ 1.25 to $ 1.30 per pound.”
With August being an important month in determining the yield of US soybeans, expect some persistent price volatility.
“Catfish producers are encouraged to watch the corn and soybean futures markets,” Stiles said. “With US corn and soybean stocks at multi-year lows, there is potential for significant price volatility through the remainder of 2021 and through 2022. Catfish producers could consider booking some of their feed needs against setbacks in grain prices. “
To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service representative or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow the agency on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.
Mary Hightower is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.