Rising French Oyster Prices Compensate Mortalities22 November 2013
China has nearly 80 per cent of the global production of oysters, according to figures produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
While France is still the leading producer in Europe, production has fallen significantly in recent years because of juvenile oyster mortalities.
French oyster production dropped from 135,000 tonnes in 2000 to 81,000 tonnes in 2012.
However, France remains by far the largest oyster producer in Europe followed by Ireland, which produced 7,500 tonnes in 2012, according to Finnian O’Luasa from the Paris Office of Bord Bia – Irish Food Board.
The loss of oysters through juvenile mortalities since 2008, has meant that France has lost its world ranking of being the fourth largest producer to the US, which now produces more than 150,000 tonnes.
France is also Europe’s largest oyster market being a traditional consumer of oysters in shell.
The significant drop in production has changed market forces with a consequent rise in selling prices.
According to a recent study carried out by the French shellfish committee, price is a purchase barrier for 50 per cent of French consumers.
However, oysters still have a good image and only 10 per cent of regular consumers have reported reduced purchases of oysters.
The average selling price of oysters for home consumption in 2012 was €7.80 per kg, which was eight per cent higher than 2011.
Sales for home consumption fell by eight per cent during the same period. Supermarkets account for 56 per cent of sales, the remaining sales being from markets (27 per cent), fish shops (10 per cent), and direct sales.
2013 prices will no doubt continue to be on a rising trend since seasonal juvenile mortalities have been further compounded by high adult oyster mortalities in summer 2013 as measured by Ifremer.
However, trade sources suggest that the consequence of the production decline is a decrease in stocking densities and a consequent rise in product quality to accompany the necessary rise in value.
“We may therefore be entering a phase of high oyster quality with good meat content to satisfy more demanding consumers paying higher prices,” said Finnian O’Luasa.