Mud crab prices have steadily increased over the years, reaching a whopping CAGR of 10-15%. As a result, many have joined the rush into the industry by expanding into the traditional pond or vertical systems. Farm operators need to have a detailed understanding of the species of interests and mastery in maintaining water chemistry. Apart from technical skills, a good understanding of the consumer is also required in order to differentiate your product from other competitors. In this blog post, we will be discussing several qualities in the mud crabs that will help you in fetching better pricing for your product.
The first attributes that most consumers look at are the fullness of meat. Good quality crabs often have their claws and body full of meat, resulting in a satisfying experience for the consumers. Crabs that are full of water instead of meat are known as water crabs, which are crabs that are harvested not too long after moulting. As a result, the water crabs do not have enough time for them to grow their meat beneath their shell. Among other crustaceans like lobsters and prawns, mud crabs are one of the only species that have this problem. Crabs are usually graded before sending to consumers, but errors will persist and will result in disgruntled consumers. Restaurants will try to offer discounts for the consumers while claiming the discount from the suppliers. To reduce losses, mud crab traders and farmers will have their own fattening facility whereby these rejects are fattened for a short period of time and re-sold at a later date.
The second attribute that some consumers look at are the species and origin of the mud crabs. The famous species include the Sri-Lankan Scylla serrata or the Australian Giant Mud Crabs which are also Scylla serrata. Although Scylla serrata can be mostly found in Australia, Philippines, India, Sri-Lanka and Indonesia, there might be a price differential due to the origin. In general, consumers are willing to pay a premium price for the Scylla serrata from the Philippines and Sri-Lanka as compared to the Scylla serrata from Indonesia. Being that said, this might be a result of strict quality control from the exporter side. All things being equal, it is not uncommon for consumers to rank the meat quality of Scylla serrata being sweeter than other species like Scylla olivacea and Scylla transquebarica. However, the preference for the species will depend on the consumers’ understanding of the mud crab species. At the moment, consumers in Singapore are displaying one of the most in-depth understandings of the crabs.
Mud crabs are prized for its giant claw, and male crabs will sometimes have 40% of their total body weight in the claw itself. For consumers in Singapore and Malaysia, they would prefer having a big claw in comparison to the crabs. Due to the aggressive nature of the crabs, they would sometimes fight against each other in which the loser will drop off their claws in an attempt to escape from being cannibalised. Mud crabs that are missing a claw or both their claws will result in a reduction in selling price. However mud crabs have the ability to regenerate their lost claw, and the new claws would be present after moulting. Despite that, the newly regenerated claws are usually smaller and would require another moulting cycle to return to normal.
Size is also another important factor to consider for consumers. The prices typically increases with bigger crabs. In the Malaysian and Singapore, crabs above 800-900 grams are considered big, while the average sizes spans between 500-700grams. 300-gram crabs are considered to be smaller crabs which are popular sizes for your average household. Crabs beyond 1kg in sizes might fetch a high price but might not do as well in terms of volume. In Singapore, consumers prefer 700-800 grams, while in 500-600 gram is quite popular in Malaysia. However, consumers in Vietnam and China prefers 300-400 gram sizes.
Different genders for mud crabs also fetch differences in pricing all else being equal. Female mud crabs with matured eggs are very popular among the consumers in Vietnam and China. These are mainly driven by consumer demand for roe and also the use of these crabs for broodstock. Apart from mature females, they are also a high consumer demands for immature females in the market. The transition between immature to mature females is due to the mating process.
Having a good understanding of consumer preference is important to ensure that your business is able to extract the maximum value from the product.