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|Catfish producers to meet in Natchez|
Although the farmed catfish industry has been shrinking in recent years, it continues to produce one of the finest aquaculture products in the world, according to Mike McCall, editor of The Catfish Journal, based in Jackson, Miss.
McCall and an estimated 250 catfish farmers and industry representatives will be in Natchez this weekend promoting farm-raised catfish during the Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) Annual Convention and Research Symposium.
CFA is sponsoring the convention, which will be held at the Natchez Convention Center and Eola Hotel.
McCall said Concordia Parish and much of northeastern Louisiana was once a growing catfish farming region.
"Most of the production in northeastern Louisiana is now pretty well reduced to Franklin Parish," said McCall. "A few years ago, Louisiana probably produced 15,000 acres of catfish, but that is probably down to about 5,000 today, most of it in Franklin Parish and further south in the state."
The major catfish farming region in the country includes four states -- Mississippi, the leader with about 80,000 acres in production, followed by Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, said McCall.
"West Alabama is producing more and more catfish," said McCall, "while Mississippi remains the leader and has most of the infrastructure, including the processing and feed mills."
He said production in Arkansas, like in Louisiana, is in decline.
"Our industry has been shrinking for the last few years," said McCall. "It's been a combination of a growing cheap import market and the extremely high cost of feed. Feed costs coupled with low prices for catfish resulted in a lot of people getting out of the business."
He said pond bank prices now average about 75 to 80 cents a pound, but noted that feed prices soared to $400 a ton at one point.
Last year, catfish farmers produced more than 600 million pounds of channel catfish.
McCall, who has been editor of the Catfish Journal for 21 years, recently announced that he will be stepping down from the post.
"This is a very unique industry," he said, "and it's one where there are a lot of hard-working, entrepreneurial people who built this industry into a success. In fact, it's just a great American success story."
But he said the industry is facing problems "with imports and the economy. The economy is affecting this industry and just every economic sector in the country. But catfish farmers will survive because we put out a great product."
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