Alternative opportunities for small farms: catfish production review
Catfish farming in the US has experienced tremendous growth in the past twenty years. Production has increased from 5 million pounds in 1972 to nearly 500 million pounds in 1996. The majority of production is concentrated in the Mississippi Delta region with an estimated 155,000 acres of ponds.
Catfish farms in Florida differ greatly from the large, established operations in the leading catfish producing states. Approximately 80 percent of Florida catfish producers have less than 20 acres of ponds and view aquaculture as an alternate means of supplementing their income. Recent development of catfish production acreage in Florida consists of traditional row crop farmers diversifying their farm income with 15 - 40 acres of catfish.
Catfish production is capital intensive and involves many risks and has been described as one of the most management intensive forms of farming. In addition to the high entry cost, Florida producers are faced with the many growing pains of a young industry. Among these are higher production costs associated with a small scale of operation and limited developed infrastructure. Additionally, market conditions are influenced by large producers and processors which pose new challenges for small producers in finding their market niche.
The article will cover four areas:
Catfish farming is a capital intensive, high-risk agricultural business. Developing a sound business plan is the first step and will assist the farmer in making a decision whether to grow catfish or not. The plan should thoroughly address all aspects of business including marketing, production and economics. In addition to the everyday challenges of water quality and fish management, the Florida producer has greater operating expenses. To optimize profit potential, it is recommended that small producers focus on retail market opportunities.
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Article made possible through the contribution of University of Florida.