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Low Prices Boost Crustacean Demand

March 24, 1999

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ Falling prices have put crawfish back on restaurant menus and in supermarkets in large numbers as the season of the freshwater crustacean gets in full swing.

The season extends from November through May, but peaks in April. Prices currently in South Mississippi range from about $1.19 to $1.49 a pound live, and $2.09 to $2.19 a pound boiled. Prices are expected to drop at least 20 cents in the next few days as more crawfish flood the markets.

Ben Posadas, marine economist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said Mississippi has no commercial crawfish producers, but some people catch for themselves and sell privately.

``Most of the nation’s crawfish production occurs in Louisiana,″ Posadas said. ``But since 1992, a lot of crawfish has been imported into the United States, mainly from China.″

In 1997, Louisiana produced most of the nation’s 70 million pounds of crawfish valued at nearly $40 million. Most were cultured, but nearly 23 million pounds were caught live in the wild. Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin between Baton Rouge and Lafayette produces most of the wild crawfish.

Tom Rexroad, owner of Claw Daddy’s Crawfish in Gulfport, Miss., said he hopes to sell between 750,000 and 800,000 pounds of crawfish this year. Rexroad has been buying all his crawfish from Louisiana for the last 12 years.

``I do think this will be one of our better years,″ Rexroad said. ``So far, we are getting more crawfish than we did last year.″

Rexroad’s prices are down 10 cents from last week. He expects his prices to drop an additional 30 cents by the last full week of March as more crawfish are caught in Louisiana.

``When there’s plenty of crawfish, the price has to go down,″ Rexroad said. ``Supply and demand will always make a difference in what we’re going to sell crawfish for and what we can buy them for.″

The river crawfish in the Achafalaya Basin have yet to be caught in large numbers, and when that happens, Rexroad said he expects prices to drop significantly. Not only are these crawfish abundant, they command higher prices.

``Basin crawfish are bigger and some people say they taste better,″ Rexroad said. ``They’re a consistent size, unlike pond crawfish where you get some large ones, but there is a lot of size difference.″

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LABELLE, Fla. (AP) _ The state of Florida began burning more than 250 acres in a commercial grove this week to help stifle an outbreak of citrus canker.

The deadly plant disease was found Feb. 5 in red grapefruit trees at Siboney Grove in eastern Hendry County, the state’s largest citrus-growing county, said Jack Neitzke, director of the Immokalee Citrus Canker Project.

The grove will lose about half its 600 acres to the fires, and it will not be paid for the burned trees or lost fruit, Neitzke said. However, the grove can harvest the varieties of fruit which were not affected by the outbreak, he said.

The burning should be completed in about six weeks.

Citrus canker can kill as many as 250 kinds of fruit trees but is not harmful to humans. The bacterium causes trees to weaken, lose leaves and drop fruit.

Vice President Al Gore announced earlier this month that Florida will receive $20.7 million to help fight canker, which could cause the state’s citrus industry to lose $200 million in sales from the current outbreak.

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