POMS may cause Antipodean oyster shortage
AUSTRALIAN oyster farmers are braced for a production shortage in the run-up to Christmas, with demand already far outstripping supply in restaurants and retail outlets, ABC news reported.
Wholesalers say that prices have jumped 30 to 40 per cent since the start of the year and could continue to rise into the festive season.
The outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) in Tasmania in 2016 has meant that production of baby Pacific oysters could not be sent to key growing areas of South Australia and parts of New South Wales.
POMS is not dangerous to humans but it has devastated Tasmanian oyster farmers who specialise in producing oyster spat.
Oysters Australia president and Smoky Bay oyster farmer Bruce Zippel said he expected it to be a difficult period for farmers.
‘We are expecting an oyster shortage, particularly through the rest of this year, which is already starting to hit and also through next year,’ Zippel said.
‘I’d really like to stress that we ask the public for patience because the industry will be back with a vengeance.
‘During 2019, probably during the winter, there will be a lot of oysters around at that point so please bear with us during this period of storage.’
Mark Allsop, chief executive of Australia’s Oyster Coast, represents 45 New South Wales farmers and markets and distributes their product.
He said the supply of oysters has dropped by about 30 per cent since the beginning of the year, while prices had started to rise by about the same.
‘Demand started to outstrip supply about six weeks ago. We have seen increased demand for rock oysters based on the reduction of supply out of Tasmania and South Australia.’
Oysters are selling for about $22 (£13) per dozen for smaller grades of Pacific and Sydney Rock oysters at the Sydney Fish Market.
‘Consumers in restaurants would have been paying $3-4, but they’re now paying over $5 each.’
He thinks distributors will keep prices where they are now but oysters may disappear from some parts of the market.
‘Buying oysters in supermarkets and all you can eat buffets will be a thing of the past.’
Above: Australian oysters