China News Weekly has cautioned that aficionados may have to wait a little longer than usual for authentic Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs, a Mid-Autumn Festival delicacy in Suzhou city.

Prices have risen by a third, and the chances of finding the real thing are as low as 1%.

The unpredictable weather this year has slowed the maturing of the giant freshwater crab. It will not be until September 23 that the hairy-clawed creature could be available. 

Jiangsu this summer underwent three peak periods of extreme heat. Between August 2 and 23, the highest temperature in the province reached an average of 36.2 C to 40.8  C (97.16 F to 105.44 F). The sweltering environment is expected to reduce this year’s crab size and even cause some to perish. 

Zhang Jianlong , head of Changshu Jintang Aquatic Products Company, said the crabs could reach a maximum of 4.55 ounces this year, a drop from the 5.2 average. Zhang predicted that his firm’s hairy crab supply could fall 20% this year. 

Despite this, China News Weekly said online offers of the Mid-Autumn Festival favorite are still swarming the internet. One out of 10 merchants interviewed by the news agency admitted the crabs came from a different area, the rest strongly denied they were counterfeit products.

China’s hairy crabs, or mitten crabs, can also be found in other parts of the country. The lakes surrounding the Yangtze River in East China offer ideal conditions for mitten crab breeding. But above all, Yangcheng Lake beats out others for the best quality. This has prompted some merchants to utilize the label to sell crabs from other places at higher prices.

According to China News Weekly, local crabs in Gucheng Lake cost around 90 yuan (nearly $13) per kilogram. In contrast, those from Yangcheng Lake range from 120 to 130 yuan ($17-$18) per kilogram.

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