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catfish dinner on white plate

(Photo credit: Marlee Moore, Alabama Farmers Federation)

U.S. farm-raised catfish is the ninth most popular item of all fish and seafood products consumed in the United States. Americans eat 15.5 pounds of fish and seafood per person per year, and each American eats 0.56 pounds of U.S. farm-raised catfish annually.

Alabama ranks fourth in U.S. aquaculture (including catfish) sales, at $172 million. In 2016, the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry produced 363 million pounds of catfish from 63,040 acres of water. Alabama produced 120 million pounds from 17,450 acres representing 33 percent of all catfish produced in the United States from 28 percent of the total U.S. catfish industry acre per year.

Historical Catfish Production in Alabama 1993 to 2016 Chart

Alabama Catfish Industry Statistics 2016

CountyFarm Number2016 Acreage% Total Acreage
Dallas83,54420
Greene113,47220
Hale327,13841
Marengo65503
Perry131,70310
Pickens33142
Sumter47294
Total7717,450100
  • Total U.S. catfish industry producer income in 2016 was $380 million and Alabama’s producer income was $130 million or 34 percent of the entire U.S. catfish industry.
  • Two catfish processing plants are located in western Alabama: one in Uniontown (Perry County) and one in Eutaw (Greene County). There are two catfish feed mills in western Alabama: Uniontown (Perry County) and Demopolis (Marengo County).
  • The 2016 Economic Impact of the Farm-Raised Catfish Industry to Alabama, including catfish production, feed manufacturing, and processing, reports the following:
Total output (sales)$465 million
Total employment2,626 (jobs)
Total value added $139 million
Catfish harvest in western Alabama (Photo credit: Alabama Farmers Federation)

Catfish harvest in western Alabama (Photo credit: Alabama Farmers Federation)

Preparing for a commercial catfish harvest in Uniontown, Alabama

Preparing for a commercial catfish harvest in Uniontown, Alabama

Feeding catfish on a commercial farm in Browns, Alabama

Feeding catfish on a commercial farm in Browns, Alabama

 

Alabama Catfish Industry Faces Serious Issues

In the early 2000s, more than 25,000 water acres were in production in Alabama, including approximately 250 catfish farms in western Alabama and four processors. By 2016, this declined to 77 farms; 17,450 water acres; and two remaining catfish processors in the state.

Why the decline?

  • Feed prices: A dramatic surge (140 percent) in feed prices from $201 per ton in 2000 to $482 per ton in 2014.
  • Competition: Inexpensive imports (mainly from Vietnam and China) flooded the U.S. marketplace with alternative catfish-like products, such as tra, swai, and basa as well as tilapia.
  • Other economic forces: The great recession and a decline in catfish demand have significantly reduced the size of the catfish industry in Alabama and the rest of the United States.
  • Disease losses: Annual production losses have been greater than $12 million annually over the last 10 years due to bacterial diseases, representing the biggest challenge to the Alabama catfish industry. Losses have been particularly heavy due to a virulent strain of Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria introduced from China.
  • Fish size: Included in the harvest recently have been excessive amounts of large fish too big for the processor to accept.
Mary Quitman Holmes, who farms in Perry County, was named Alabama's Catfish Farmer of the Yar in 2017 (Photo credit: Debra Davis, Alabama Farmers Federation)

Mary Quitman Holmes, who farms in Perry County, was named Alabama’s Catfish Farmer of the Year in 2017. (Photo credit: Debra Davis, Alabama Farmers Federation)

David’s Catfish House of Atmore, Alabama, won the 2017 Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Award. From left are Catfish Farmers of America President Townsend Kyser, David’s Catfish owners Elliott and Rob Faircloth, Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Sid Nelson, Absolutely Alabama host Fred Hunter, and Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Jim Allen. (Photo credits: Debra Davis [top] and Marlee Moore [left], Alabama Farmers Federation)

David’s Catfish House of Atmore, Alabama, won the 2017 Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant
Award. From left are Catfish Farmers of America President Townsend Kyser, David’s Catfish
owners Elliott and Rob Faircloth, Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Sid Nelson, Absolutely Alabama host Fred Hunter, and Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Jim Allen.
(Photo credits: Debra Davis, Alabama Farmers Federation)

Trade names are used only to give specific information. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System does not endorse or guarantee any product and does not recommend one product instead of another that might be similar.
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