Oysters, clams, cockles, ark shells - September 2015

During the first quarter 2015 oysters trade recorded a growth, totalling about 13 000 tonnes.

When only considering the major trading countries, world trade of oysters dramatically increased by 29% during the first quarter of 2015 compared with the first quarter of 2014. Imports into Japan and USA, the world’s top markets for oysters, climbed by 900 tonnes (+64%) and 800 tonnes (+44%) when comparing the respective periods. Exports from the Republic of Korea sky-rocketed during the first quarter by 62% (or 1 300 tonnes).


The Irish Food Board (BordBia) reported that China has become increasingly interested in oysters from abroad, including from France, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. However, market penetration is still low and consumption is mainly concentrated around big holidays and celebrations. Imports are currently estimated at 3 000 tonnes. Oyster prices in China are generally very high, with the average price around EUR 7.5 per piece in gourmet stores and EUR 15 per piece in five star hotels. Chinese seafood buyers believe that “if prices goes back to normal, sales of oysters will surge”.


The Jersey Oyster Company was certified with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards for responsible aquaculture. Two other oyster farms based in Jersey, UK are in the process of getting ASC certified.


According to the professional shellfish organization Comité National de la Conchyliculture, oyster production stabilized in October 2014 after several years of decline due to the severe damage caused by a herpes type of virus (OsHV-1) since 2008.

The industry is now facing problems of another kind. Today, an estimated 50% of all French oysters are so-called triploids, with this product launched in the late 1990s. This laboratory-bred oyster is made sterile by avoiding its milky appearance during the spawning season, and has been produced to grow more quickly than its wild counterpart (two years instead of three years). Triploid oysters are not genetically modified, as no outside gene is inoculated, but this is difficult to explain to consumers. As of now, consumers are rarely if ever informed about the origin of the product. Some stakeholders, among them consumer associations, advocate for more transparency, while others, mainly producers, fear consumers’ misunderstanding and as a result, a potential drop in demand. Currently in the French market, there are no requirements in relation to labelling about these issues.

Large-sized oysters are relatively abundant this year due to the warm autumn last year and the trade embargo in Russia, which is a traditional market for large sizes n°1 and 2. This has resulted in a slight easing of prices in early 2015.