Last year, crawfish prices were at their lowest mark in years. Not so, thus far this time around.
One of the few welcome things 2020 delivered was a near perfect crossing of supply and demand that yielded a lot of bang for one’s crawfish-purchasing buck. But the weather has been far colder than ideal for a similar crop to emerge this year, while demand has only surged: the closures and limitations of dine-in restaurants over the past year led more people to seek out crawfish as an alternative treat.
At Hebert’s Seafood, the price of live crawfish is $4.75 a pound, while boiled is $6.99 a pound. Owner Willie Hebert estimated that’s about two dollars above where the price was at this time last year.
“The demand was so great this year, with restaurants closed people couldn’t get enough crawfish,” Hebert said. “There’s a supply issue. As the weather cooperates, production should increase. We started off strong, but then the weather dropped off.”
There figures to be an upcoming spike in demand, as well. Super Bowl Sunday is a little more than a week away (Feb. 7) and that is historically a major crawfish season landmark.
“I kind of think it will be quiet this weekend, not too busy over here, with people waiting for the Super Bowl next week,” Hebert said. “Then you’ll see them. It would have been even better had the Saints have been in.”
While prices are up over last year, Hebert believes some relief is coming in that department. The weather is warming up, and that usually means good things are on the way.
“You’re already seeing it start to pick up a little bit with the warmer weather we’ve had,” he said. “I think it’ll all straighten out once the weather’s a little more consistent.”
COVID-19 has seemingly affected just about everything in some way, the crawfish retail industry being no exception. But in this case, business has actually seen an uptick as opposed to drying up, as people found the need to find restaurant alternatives during the pandemic.
That wasn’t a given, though, Hebert said, as anxiety early last year was high.
“I was very concerned,” he said. “I didn’t know which way this was going to turn … talking to other retail outlets, we’ve all done a little bit better with business. People were staying home and cooking for themselves … you may not have sold a whole sack to someone, since people weren’t having big get togethers. But people were boiling for their families.”
Mardi Gras figures to be another wild card, as it will be uncharted waters once more with the cancellation of several parades and the promise of anything but a traditional carnival season.
“I don’t know what to expect there,” Hebert said. “I hope it continues on, with people doing things individually and with their families and such.”