Big price hikes for hairy crabs
Hairy crab lovers are going to have to fork out more to eat the crustacean this year, as wet market prices for the seasonal delicacy have soared by up to 40 percent from last year.
Hairy crabs, also known as Chinese mitten crabs because of their furry claws, are native to the coastal estuaries of East Asia and has for centuries been recognized as a delicacy. Artificially fed and kept in fresh water, these shelled creatures reach maturity in fall and are best consumed during the months of October and November when the crabs are abundant in roe.
Shi Xiaoxing, a crab farmer from Yangcheng Lake, said that the “out of water price” for crabs from this area is a record 440 yuan ($66) per kilogram. Hairy crabs are usually sold in pairs comprising one of each gender. Shao Huamei, a hairy crab vendor in a wet market added that the price may fluctuate depending on the volume of crabs available.
Yangcheng Lake in the south of Jiangsu province, located about an hour’s drive from Shanghai, is one of the most famous production bases for these crabs. This year, the lake kicked off its crab harvest on Sept 23.
According to Ma Gang, deputy director of the local agricultural administration, Yangcheng Lake will produce 2,100 tons of crabs this year, only 5 percent more than last year, because production has been affected by bad weather.
Ma also told local news portal The Paper that the crabs harvested this year are on average 4.5 percent smaller compared to those from last season, though he assured that the quality has not been affected. Based on Sept 19 sample results, the average weights of male and female crabs were 180 and 135 grams respectively.
Another major production base for hairy crabs is Taihu Lake. On Sept 25, the Suzhou Taihu Lake crab trade union leader Qian Caiyuan said that prices of crabs from this area have risen by 30 percent from last year to about 320 yuan per kg.
Q ian explained that the production of crabs was affected by the high rainfall during the months of April and May and the exceptionally high temperatures during the summer. He expects the national production of hairy crabs to drop by 30 percent this year.
Qian added that the harvest season this year arrived a few weeks later than usual, which has resulted in market demand accumulating since the MidAutumn Festival.
Gaochun in suburban Nanjing of Jiangsu province as well as Hubei and Hunan provinces had also announced the commencement of their crab harvests over the weekend.
Unideal weather conditions this year have affected the hairy crab harvest, which will be 30 percent smaller this year.