2013 Meeting

2013 Catfish Industry Summary And Work to Do in 2014

The US Farm-Raised Catfish Industry has seen a year of growth in the quantity processed an increase in fish prices to farmers but a decrease in foodsize fish I fingerlings-broodstock  feed fed. A series of industry meetings were held to analyze our situation and to come up with the key challenges and opportunities and to develop alternative solution pathways. In concert with industry experts, a 3-state steering committee and Mr. Gary Blumenthal from World Perspectives Inc., laid out the situation and assisted in building consensus among key industry stakeholders regarding select ways to move the industry forward.

Extensive research and two intensive industry ground surveys covering Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama and connecting with all levels of the industry value chain, built the foundation for two final, inclusive workshops. The workshops reviewed the industry’s situation, offered agricultural product proxies (lamb, pork, chicken, apples) for discussion and helped foster dialogue and consensus-building  efforts among U.S. farm-raised catfish stakeholders.

A neutral third-party facilitator, Mr. Vern Herr from Group Solutions of Atlanta captured cross­ sector support for future action priorities. Key takeaways included:

  • Moving the needle will require increased production efficiency, raising quality standards (workmanship, flavor, consistency) and improved product
  • Despite substantial shakeout in the industry, workshop attendees expressed strong belief that they would still be in in the catfish business five years from now, and that the market for S. farm-raised catfish could be increased by 65 percent or more over the next 20 years.
  • Renewed farmer/processor dialogue showed that value-chain linkages need to be These workshops were a first step toward increasing cooperation between producers, processors, brokers, wholesaler/distributors and retailers.
  • Agreement on the need to highlight the fact that S. farm-raised catfish is an environmentally-friendly, locally grown, nutritious and sustainable protein.

In sum, the industry has the potential for a consistently excellent product that will exploit the exploding market for aquaculture products.   However, to achieve this it must update production and marketing methods.  Industry stakeholders must find a way to work together to improve costs and maximize market share.

After an extensive review of the findings by the Steering Committee, it was determined that the industry should proceed on four major objectives:

I .   Quality:  Cooperatively develop industry quality standards for producers and processors

  1. Price Stability: Achieve price stability through the development of production contracts that are equitable and binding on producers and processors
  1. Marketing: Empower the industry to improve the marketing of S. farm-raised catfish
  1. Research Focus: Collectively focus the diverse knowledge and resources of the academic community on the profitability of the catfish

It is anticipated that the industry will establish separate task forces for each of the major objectives agreed to by the Steering Committee.