The coronavirus pandemic has created a “new normal” for many businesses and industries. For farmers and the crawfish industry, their new normal is still greatly unknown. When the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March of 2020, the industry halted. Restaurants could no longer offer dine-in seating. The businesses were restricted to delivery and take-out.
For the crawfish industry, the pandemic required hasty action. The industry was entering the peak season a month before Easter. It is when backyard crawfish boils are most common and Louisianians purchase the product. However, the pandemic led to restaurants ordering fewer crawfish. As a result, there was an oversaturated crawfish market. The price of crawfish then dropped and farmers experienced financial strain.
Ultimately, the farmers could only sell 10% to 15% of their crawfish catch. Even so, the season bounced back as 2020 continued. The drive-thru option at restaurants began to take hold. Also, people were able to hold small crawfish boils outdoors in their backyards. Still, the irregularities and financial difficulties of 2020 called into question the viability of 2021’s crawfish season.
What is Needed in the 2021 Crawfish Season?
Another shutdown like the previous spring would have a severe effect on the crawfish industry. Otherwise, the people who work in the crawfish industry expect a semi-regular year. They do expect less crawfish and fewer customers. However, as long as there are no shutdowns, they anticipate a strong end of the year.
The past year of the pandemic gave businesses a chance to adjust. Restaurant owners are aware that the demand for crawfish is present. Their main effort is ensuring that supplies are available for their customers. There are 1,400 crawfish restaurants that are included on The Crawfish App. The app’s co-founder Laney King said that almost every restaurant on the app implemented a drive-thru, take-out window or curbside pickup option.
It is unsurprising that the demand for crawfish is higher than normal. Given last year’s national lockdown, people missed their annual crawfish boils. Friends and coworkers are eager to have those boils again as the vaccines continue to roll out throughout the country. The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center expected a slow start to the 2021 crawfish season. Then, there will be gradual improvement.
The gradual regrowth is linked to weather changes. The cold temperature adversely affects the crawfish activity. As the weather continues to warm, crawfish activity will naturally rise. Further, the arrival of migrant workers plays a role. Once they return, the harvest will resume as usual. Crawfish specialist Mark Shirley anticipates an increase in crawfish acreage. That is not unlike past seasons. Last year’s acreage amounted to about 253,000 acres of production.
What’s the Outlook?
Generally speaking, there are business owners who are optimistic. Any growth for farmers and their distributors relies on restaurants and grocery stores. If these businesses cannot or will not purchase crawfish, growth is hindered. Additionally, any growth is dependent on the willingness of consumers to leave their houses and buy the crawfish.