Louisiana produces 90% of the crawfish in the United States and consumes 70% locally. Because of the demand for quality seafood, crawfish sales have increased both nationally and internationally. Development of whole, cooked, frozen crawfish and prepared frozen dishes has increased the distribution of processed crawfish.
An estimated 5% of the annual crawfish production(4 million to 5 million pounds) is exported to European markets as a large, whole, cooked product. Exporting of whole, cooked crawfish involves large crawfish. The development of this market has had a major influence on the development of the grading system used.
Processed tail meat is marketed in 1-poundpackages either fresh or frozen. China has begun to export more frozen tail meat to the United States in recent years. The low cost of the Chinese product has drastically lowered sales of domestic product. Processors heavily dependent on sales of tail meat have been severely affected. Potential producers need to be aware of this problem and develop marketing schemes to reduce the influence of Chinese tail meat on their operations.
All crawfish are marketed live by farmers. The farmer sells to a processor or a primary wholesaler. Some producers sell direct to retail stores, restaurants and consumers. Generally larger crawfish enter the live market, and smaller crawfish are processed. Producers of large crawfish can be more competitive with the fluctuations in price caused by the wild harvest. Producers of small crawfish are usually limited to selling to processors for the tail meat market alone, and even this market is not guaranteed. Small crawfish are often rejected by the processor and the consumer.
A crawfish producer should know the potential markets, both wholesale and retail, and match production to estimated needs. Identifying and establishing your markets should be your top priority. Before you get started, look into and evaluate all possible markets. Since crawfish are harvested several times per week, reliable buyers are paramount to a farmer’s success. Remember, people will not be coming to your door to buy your product. You must sell your crawfish yourself.