CHINA’S crayfish craze has begun, with bright red stacks of spiced crayfish spread across tables on summer nights. The crustacean is a favorite snack to eat with bottles of cold beer.
According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Chinese consumption of crayfish has jumped by a third to 879,300 tons a year over the past two years.
Annual output reached 899,100 tons in 2016, making China the world’s largest producer of crayfish, accounting for over 70 percent of the world’s total.
Native to North America, crayfish were brought to east China’s Jiangsu Province by a Japanese merchant in the 1930s. They have proliferated in the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River, with its fertile land and a large network of rivers and lakes providing an ideal habitat for the species.
Central and eastern China’s Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces produce 95 percent of the nation’s total output. Hubei alone makes more than 60 percent of the total, or 489,000 tons in 2016.
Central, eastern and north China are major consumers of crayfish. Major Chinese cities Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hefei and Hangzhou have an annual consumption of more than 10,000 tons.
Since 2011, the crayfish industry has expanded rapidly across the country as many localities look to the industry for higher profits and employment.
Raising and processing of crayfish plus related service industries total 146.61 billion yuan (US$21.16 billion) in value, providing nearly 5 million jobs in China.
The crayfish farming industry is worth 56.4 billion yuan and the processing sector 10.2 billion yuan, while related service industries have a value of 80 billion yuan.
Outside the domestic market, Chinese crayfish have found fans in the United States and Europe. In 2016, China exported 23,300 tons of crayfish worth US$259 million.
Nearly 40 percent went to the United States, while 90 percent of crayfish consumed in Europe were from China.
Popular dishes in China include braised, steamed and garlic crayfish.