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Catfish Competition Submerged by Corn Prices

US - It's rather unlikely that Mississippi catfish farmers and processors will watch the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, on television each night with the same sense of hope for global harmony that others share.

Why? Asian competition, specifically from Vietnam and China, are among the factors threatening Mississippi's farm-raised catfish industry, answers the Clarion Ledger.

According to the news agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2005 reported that catfish farming was a $462 million industry, far exceeding any other American farm-raised fish. The industry employed more than 10,000 people at its peak, almost all in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

But that was before corn and soybean prices almost tripled because of ethanol production mandates, short harvests, increased Asian demand and, in recent months, Midwest flooding.

Those factors, compounded with Asian competition from imported basa fish and soaring energy and fuel costs, have conspired to make traditional pond-raised catfish farming less than profitable for many Mississippi growers - and that in turn has tightened the screws on Mississippi catfish processors.