Blog Articles

Crawfish Shortage Caused by a Combination of Weather Events

April 04, 2024 by FreshByte Software

Fans of crawfish have been boiling mad this spring as the popular crustaceans are unusually hard to find – and expensive when spotted! -- on local menus due to a combination of extreme weather events.

The missing “mudbugs” are no joking matter as Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry issued a national disaster declaration in March saying that the crawfish shortage was not only affecting the Bayou State’s economy but also “our way of life.”

CNN reported that the crawfish shortage affected Mardi Gras.

“Carnival season usually attracts tourists to New Orleans from all over the world, where they tend to gorge on the state’s classic seafood boils that typically include pounds of freshly cooked crawfish. It’s also a popular staple during Lent season when most of Louisiana’s Catholics seek seafood alternatives to meat,” said CNN.

Texans Love the Southern Tradition of Crawfish

Of course, crawfish are from just a Louisiana staple as they are beloved in Texas, too.

“Whatever you call them, they swim at the heart of a Southern tradition that’s as much about eating the tasty freshwater crustaceans in a messy jubilee of divine spiciness as it is about bringing friends, family—and even strangers—together,” reported Texas Co-op Power magazine. “From out-of-the-way eateries and exuberant festivals to backyard shindigs and community celebrations, mudbug-loving Texans happily pull up a seat at a communal table and peel tails. Steam and aromatic spices fill the air as piping hot, bright-red crawfish tumble from giant pots onto paper-covered tables.”

This year, however, it has been hard to find crawfish at some locations and when they are available, they are coming at a premium. The Advocate says that crawfish a year ago cost between $3 and $5 a pound boiled but that in 2024 that price has skyrocketed to between $10 and $12 per pound.

The Texas Monthly called it “this year’s no good, very bad crawfish season.”

The publication said that “Crawfish lovers likely won’t be feeling the “laissez les bon temps rouler” spirit this year. Farmers and restaurateurs are in a supply crisis as crawfish season kicks off, but the bleakness of the situation depends on where you look and when you expect to find them.”

Acadia Crawfish owner Scott Broussard, a crawfish distributor and supplier of H-E-B stores, told Texas Monthly “In 35 years, I’ve never seen it this bad.”

How bad? Acadia Crawfish normally procures between 100,000 and 150,000 pounds of crawfish each year during the first week of February. In 2024: the company could only purchase 6,000 pounds of crawfish.

H-E-B issued the following statement: “Extreme weather patterns in 2023 have caused supply and demand issues in the crawfish industry that are affecting retailers nationwide. We continue to closely monitor the situation and work with our suppliers to secure crawfish that meets H-E-B quality standards.”

Why There is a Crawfish Shortage in 2024

The Associated Press reported that the 2024 crawfish shortage is being caused by a combination of weather events including:

  • A drought in 2023.
  • Extreme heat over the last two years.
  • Saltwater intrusion on the Mississippi River.
  • A hard freeze this winter in Louisiana.

“Louisiana’s extreme drought conditions have affected our farmers, our economy, and our way of life. All 365,000 crawfish acres in Louisiana have been affected by these conditions. That is why I am issuing a disaster declaration. The crawfish industry needs all the support it can get right now,” said Gov. Landry.

It wasn’t until rain in March that a 7-month-long drought ended in southeast Louisiana.

“Southeast Louisiana was plagued with drought conditions since at least early June. Those drought conditions only continued to worsen as time went on. By late August, all of southeast Louisiana (and much of the state) was classified as "Extreme Drought" conditions,” explained WDSU News. “As the rainfall deficits continued, most of the state was then upgraded to "Exceptional" drought between late September through late November, which is the highest classification on the drought scale.”

The drought conditions led to low river levels which allowed saltwater intrusion, making many areas too salty for irrigation in the fall.

“Amid severe drought in 2023 and extreme heat, typically one of the wettest states in the country saw some of its driest conditions. As a result, the weather dried out the soil where crawfish burrow to lay eggs,” reported the AP.

Broussard, who also owns two farms, told Texas Monthly that where he normally catches close to 400 pounds of crawfish a day in February, this year his yields were as low as 10 pounds in one day.

“Everybody’s scared out here,” another crawfish wholesaler told Texas Monthly. “We think it’s a disaster, no different than a hurricane, an earthquake, a flood.”

The Size of the Crawfish Industry

The AP says that during a normal year, Louisiana produces anywhere from 175 million to 200 million pounds of crawfish, bringing in $500 million to the state’s economy.

CNN reported that “early estimates from Louisiana State University’s Agriculture Center showed potential losses to the state’s crawfish industry could be nearly $140 million for this year’s harvest season.”

The Louisiana commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry told AP that “Louisiana’s crawfish industry is more than an economic driver for our state – it is a deep part of our cultural heritage.”

Louisiana is not the only state that produces crawfish with Texas the second largest producer, harvesting some 7.5 million pounds annually, according to My San Antonio publication.

“Because of Louisiana’s ideal environment for crawfish, Texas sources roughly 60 – 70 percent of its crawfish from the state, meaning wholesalers must make the trip lasting hundreds of miles each way every week amid crawfish season to meet their customers’ needs,” said the publication.

Crawfish wholesalers from Texas told the Texas Tribune they could see this year’s shortage coming when driving back and forth last year between the two states “There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and not a drop in the soil. It was around 115 degrees.”

One crawfish producer said: “Mother Nature will throw you a curveball, and you have to deal with what’s at hand.”

Tags: Lifestyle, Food Trends

FreshByte Software

Written by FreshByte Software

Created with our customer's needs in mind, Fresh Byte Software provides an inventory and accounting management system built to increase gross profits and minimize costs for wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. Are you shopping for new software that will help you manage your business? Contact us today, we have the solution for you.