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Future Looking Better for Arkansas Catfish Farmers

13 May 2015

US - Catfish farmers in Arkansas are seeing higher prices and lower feed costs this spring, giving producers hope that years of industry declines are nearing an end.

"What's happened is that we've shrunk down to our loyal customer base," said Joey Lowery of Searcy, a member of the executive board of Catfish Farmers of America. "We're processing about what we can sell."

Mr Lowery and Ted McNulty, director of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture's Aquaculture Division, said that US farm-raised catfish is mostly being sold to traditional catfish house restaurants, as well as other restaurants that feature locally-grown foods on their menus, the ArkansasOnline reports.

"The majority of all the fish being grown around the country goes to restaurants and to others, such as grocery store chains. That demand is pretty solid," Mr McNulty said.

Mr McNulty said growers are now getting from $1.25 to $1.30 per pound for their fish, up sharply from the roughly 85-cents per pound being paid just two years ago. He said fish prices, combined with lower feed costs, means that some producers are starting to think about adding pond acreage for the first time in years.

In Arkansas, acreage is expected to drop 15 per cent in 2015, to 5,800 acres compared with 6,800 a year earlier, according to the US Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

At one time, Arkansas had more than 25,000 acres of ponds in production. Nationally, catfish pond acreage is expected to shrink this year by 10 per cent, from 77,725 acres to 69,910 acres.

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