Yuan, a pharmacy employee, was inspired to raise roaches after seeing a China Central Television program that aired last year. “I saw people raise this kind of cockroach in Anhui,” she said. “They said it can be food and also can be medicine…So I took tens of thousands of yuan to learn [how to breed them] for a week and spent more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600) to buy 20 kg (44 lbs) of live cockroaches.”
The article later explains how she drowns, dries, and sells the cockroaches for nutritional and folk medicine use, apparently making a nice profit:
Yuan sells the roaches after they are drowned in vats of water and then drying in the sun. ”Those dried ones can be sold at 300 yuan to 400 yuan ($48-$64) per jin (1.1 lb).
The specific type of cockroach mentioned in the article is the Palmetto bug. Wikipedia calls these the Florida woods cockroach and differentiates them from some other species.
If you ask Google "400 yuan in dollars" the answer (as of June 13, 2014) is $64.40, so apparently the literal currency conversion is correct. The SCMP article has numerically compatible conversions into HK$.
But there could always have been a decimal point error somewhere.
I have doubts that one can routinely sell cockroaches for such a high price. For instance, there is no well-known international trade in cockroaches, yet these prices are much higher than prices for other internationally traded bulk foodstuffs such as fruits, meat, etc.
It could be a temporary or localized bubble. Another possibility is a scam promoted through smaller local media, to attract unsophisticated investors to copycat, that happened to be picked up unaware by more reputable news media as a curiosity.
Do Florida woods cockroaches commonly sell for ~US$80/kg in China?