Last call for crawfish: Farmers stuck in the mud as coronavirus shutdowns plague industry

Many crawfish farmers calling it quits after Mother's Day due to coronavirus impact

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Mother’s Day weekend is usually one of the most profitable times for Joseph Kent. Normally, he and his farm hands would not be able to keep up with the demand; sacks would go just as fast as they could be filled.

“After the push for Mother’s Day, we’re going to look at putting the rice crop in and backing up and starting over next year,” Kent said. “Hope for better.”

The stay-at-home orders, which have caused many restaurants to shut down and have prevented large groups from gathering, have choked the life out of the market.

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“It took 70 percent of our market away,” Kent said. “We’re fishing 30 percent of our acreage and still having trouble moving them.”

Across the state, it’s estimated crawfish farmers have already lost $125 million due to the low prices and market collapse, according to LSU. That’s roughly a 60% loss overall.

Typically, Joseph Kent and his farm hands could not pull the crawfish out of their ponds fast enough. This year, because of the coronavirus, the demand has fallen drastically, resulting in profits sinking in the mud.
Typically, Joseph Kent and his farm hands could not pull the crawfish out of their ponds fast enough. This year, because of the coronavirus, the demand has fallen drastically, resulting in profits sinking in the mud. (Source: WAFB)

“We’re just trying to scrape by with what we can,” said Randy Lemoine, one of the farmers who works with Kent.

Industry leaders have rung the alarm bells, but while crawfish is important in Louisiana, it does not move the needle as much in Washington, D.C. as other agricultural commodities like beef and cotton.

The Louisiana congressional congregation has signed onto a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for assistance in softening the blow to these farmers, however, none has been provided yet.

“You know, we’ve got families to feed and guys need work and to make hours and it’s just, it’s been all over the place and very unpredictable,” Kent said.

With profits sinking in the mud, farmers are deciding to call it quits for the year to get ready to plant rice in the hopes it will help salvage an abysmal crawfish season.

“We went to the third week of June last year,” Lemoine said. “This year, it will be the second week of May we’ll be closing up.”

Many crawfish farmers in the state share Kent’s sentiments. Mother’s Day weekend is likely the last call for crawfish in Louisiana.

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