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Crayfish: Product Innovation Drives Consumption

Recently, Xiamen in Fujian province has witnessed the success of 2020 China Crayfish Industry Transformation and Sustainable Development Forum, in which “Master Crayfish”, serving as the symbol of Hainan’s tropical all-season crayfish industry, came with a self-introduction. Once the cartoon image of the crawfish appeared on the scene, the guests were deeply impressed.

Against the backdrop of China’s economy getting rid of the impact and influence of the epidemic, aquaculture production, circulation, processing and consumption are all recovering rapidly. Crayfish has been a popular and rapidly expanding “Internet-famous food” in recent years. After emerging from the shadow of the epidemic, the development of crayfish is confronted with a mix of opportunities and challenges. There comes the question: how to adjust the way of its development for further achievements?
The prospect is still promising, irrespective of the saturation of the farming scale.
In 2019, the scale of crayfish farming nationwide exceeded 19 million mu, making the output over 2 million tons and the total output value exceeding 400 billion yuan. While the growth pace has begun to slow down amidst the industry scale all the way up, “saturation”, as the public view, results in a touch of tension from more and more practitioners.

“According to our estimate, the scale of crayfish farming should be 18 million mu, with a total output of 1.8 million tons. By and large, those significant numbers indicate the industry scale tends to saturate.” Prof. Gu Zemao from HZAU said.

He further explained, “Nevertheless, it does not mean that the industry is no longer developing. On top of the shift from surplus into deficit on crayfish export, and the increasingly profound size of its import, the market demand is still relatively strong. In case of the markedly season-oriented price fluctuation of crayfish, it is how to rationalize the development of local conditions that is to bring insight to us for further development of crayfish industry.”

Bracing ourselves against the impact of the pandemic, we have witnessed a sharp drop in domestic catering consumption, which causes a huge impact on crayfish industry tending to be saturated. Many experts hold that the transformation and adjustment of crayfish industry is needed urgently and there comes a mix of challenges and opportunities.

“In the past, the consumption scene of crayfish was mainly concentrated in large stalls, booths for midnight snack and other food and beverage outlets while the sales of this year are not ideal. According to rough statistics from relevant units, the online consumption of crayfish this year is three times that of 2019, and its consumption from the channel of household diet and take-out service has increased significantly.” Tang Jianqing, researcher at Jiangsu Freshwater Fisheries Research Institute. He said that with the continuous improvement of craft in manufacturing, the quality and taste of seasoned crayfish food are much better so as to be increasingly popular with consumers. This also reflects that crayfish consumption is full of resilience.

As Tang told to the reporter, since the booming consumption of crayfish and the rising price in recent years, the development momentum of the industry has been well maintained. At present, with the further expansion of the consumption scope in northwest, northeast and southwest regions, more and more people eat crayfish. “I think there is still a bright future for the development of crayfish and the per capita consumption will rise still further.”

It is better-timing raising of larger-size crayfish that ensures its better sales.

Considering that crayfish can still be raised, how to raise it well and make a profit has been given priority to by practitioners in crayfish farming.

It is apparently obvious that seasonal fluctuation exists in crayfish price, usually hitting the lowest price from May to June each year and the highest price during the Spring Festival because of insufficient supply. As the saying goes, it is better to sell well than to raise crayfish well. Avoiding the peak season does effectively increase economic benefits.

At the forum, Tang introduced to the participants a variety of technical modes, such as better-timing raising of crayfish. “The key is the duration of fry delivery and feeding. Technologies including fry breeding in autumn, at greenhouse and late breeding, ensure that the farmed crayfish come into the market early so as to extend the listing time of those fry.”

Fry raising is of great significance for crayfish with staggered peaks. After June this year, the remarkable achievements in pandemic response nationwide promote rapid growth of the consumption of crayfish, and the crayfish price has also risen all the way. The reason is the shortage of large-sized crayfish suitable for catering stores. “In the future, the ‘breeding separation of fry and crayfish’ model will be fully promoted. This model can effectively improve the survival rate, reduce the incidence rate and further promote standardized breeding. It will serve as the key to the production of large-sized crayfish.” Tang said.

Likewise, Gu also believes, “We are changing from the pursuit of breeding scale to large-sized crayfish. Crayfish with small size and poor quality cannot bring ideal benefits to farmers. We should adjust while following local conditions, effectively control the breeding scale, shift from the pursuit of output to the pursuit of quality, control the delivery density, and strive to raise large-sized ones.”

In addition, he also said that the intensification of current crayfish development needed improving. The breeding link has the highest cost, the greatest risk and the lowest profit. In the future, the risk should be shifted from farmers to enterprises and other entities to enhance the overall anti-risk ability. Meanwhile, an industrial platform is expected to enhance the integration of production and marketing and ensure benefit of farmers.

“staggered fry breeding is of great significance to Hainan province. Moreover, the level of mechanization will also be improved in the future. With mechanization introduced, standardization can be realized, thus realizing moderate scale and quality production and management. The better you breed crayfish, the richer you become. Only when crayfish grow well, can they sell at a good price.” Tang said.

After the change, opportunities come. Let “tropical crayfish of all seasons” lead the way.

“While the industry is developing rapidly, we have seen the benefits of farmers decline, its processing stage suffering, and catering consumption shrinking sharply. To farm well and make money, we need more wisdom.” Zhang Yuanhua, executive vice-chairman of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Association Crayfish Industry Branch, said at the forum.

Chen Haowei, chairman of Hainan Rice and Shrimp Ecological Technology Co., Ltd, the title sponsor of this forum, brought “Master Crayfish” and “Hainan Experience”.

“The two bottlenecks restricting the economic development of crayfish are seasonality and supply chain respectively. Hainan’s unique climate environment and distinctive co-breeding technology of tropical rice and crayfish enable Hainan’s tropical full-season crayfish to make up for the shortage of the national market in winter and spring and fill the market vacancy.” Chen said.

As is reported, in addition to the “uniqueness” advantage of all-season production, Hainan tropical all-season crayfish also has many distinctions featuring its tropical, green, ecological, organic, and selenium-enriched factors. It has high quality and high protein, and is rich in a variety of trace elements necessary for human body. At present, Hainan Crayfish Industry Association is taking the lead in cultivating various innovative products of tropical crayfish throughout the season, including the research and development of crayfish snack products and ready-to-eat crayfish products, and the online consumption experience of crayfish is enhanced through live e-commerce.

“As regards the promotion of Hainan tropical full-season crayfish industry, not only does it connect with the capital market and form an interest connection mechanism of ‘land shares’, ‘rent before shares’, ‘guaranteed rent integrating shares dividends’ in the mode of ‘capital combined with enterprises, cooperatives and farmers’, but it also enables farmers to become the original shareholders of future listed companies and benefit receivers by partially opening some shares to them in all cooperation projects.” Chen said.

Translated by: Sun Fei
Supervised by: Xie Lujie