Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Catfish (Prices) Are Jumpin'

And, speaking of higher food prices, WSJ reports that the American farm-raised catfish "is proving an elusive catch for Southern restaurant owners who draw big crowds with heaping platters of fried fish and hush puppies."

Rising grain prices and cheaper imports have forced many domestic catfish farmers out of business, creating a shortage of American fish that has pushed prices up.

The predicament stems in part from what U.S. farm-raised catfish themselves eat: pellets made of soybeans, corn and wheat. The prices of those ingredients have jumped, causing the price of catfish feed to double over the past four years. Many farmers—caught between rising costs and tight credit that makes it tougher for them to borrow—have been leaving the business. There were 9% fewer American catfish operators on Jan. 1 than there were a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although the price paid to surviving catfish farmers was up 31% in February compared with a year ago, according to the USDA, farmers are still struggling with higher production costs.

WSJ goes on:
About 70% of the $403 million annual crop of U.S.-raised catfish goes to restaurants like Reel Thing Catfish Cafe in Allen, Texas, where owner Jim Brevard reluctantly raised the price of a fried catfish platter with two sides from $8.99 to $9.99, putting even more pressure on strapped consumers.

"I had people who dined with me three times per month and are now down to once a month," he said.

Larry Jordan, owner of Red's Catfish Cabin, located on Catfish Road in Cragford, Ala., now pays $4 per pound for catfish, $1 more than he was paying six weeks ago.
Of course, according to the Fed, prices are not a concern and, even if prices were going up, everyone is getting money at the same time, so people who are cutting back on their catfish consumption don't fit into Fed models and must be ignored.


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