Prized hairy crabs escape worst of drought

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2011, 12:00am


Local foodies concerned that this year's drought could deprive them of the chance of tucking into 'hairy crabs' this autumn can rest easy - so long as they are willing to pay for the privilege.

Contrary to market fears, crab farmers on Yangcheng Lake in Jiangsu province - the region's most famous source of the delicacy - are looking forward to a bumper crop.

Yangcheng hairy crabs mostly end up in steamers in Shanghai and Hong Kong kitchens. A local trade association vowed to send about 30 tonnes to Hong Kong this year.

With more than three months to go before the Chinese mitten crabs, as they are also known, reach maturity, they are already 40 per cent larger than at the same time last year.

The devastating spring drought in central provinces has hit competition in other crab-producing regions further north in Jiangsu and particularly in Poyang Lake, Jiangxi province, which is expected to drive up the price significantly.

Overall, the hairy crab supply is expected to be down at least 30 per cent by the time the season begins in late September, and shellfish dealers conservatively predict a 20 per cent price increase.