Oyster shortage to hit hard in 2018

SPAT SHORTAGE: Bruce Zippel said he was ready for a year of low production, but expected the oyster industry to recover. Picture: Luca Cetta

SPAT SHORTAGE: Bruce Zippel said he was ready for a year of low production, but expected the oyster industry to recover. Picture: Luca Cetta

Oyster growers have warned prices are expected to rise next year due to a lack of spat caused by the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) outbreak in Tasmania.

Oyster industry figures said the shortage had caused concern but hoped numbers would return to normal in 2019.

South Australian Oyster Growers Association executive officer Trudy McGowan said the full shortage picture was unclear.

“Growers have received about a third of the spat they normally would receive and so this will lead to some level of shortage, but we are not sure how much,” she said.

“Prices may go up as you would expect with any shortage, but by how much is not known at this stage.”

Bruce Zippel of Zippel’s Oysters outlined the situation at the Ceduna District Council meeting this week and likened the situation to a farming drought.

He said after the POMS outbreak last year the oyster industry would have to allow for an 18-month to two-year-period for the shortage to take effect.

“Because of the low numbers, the industry has not been getting enough spat over the last 16 months to meet needs in South Australia,” he said.

“In the industry people are quite concerned – we have to plan for a year of low production and need the capacity to ride it out.

“We want the public to be aware of what will happen, however if we get a good number of spat then we should be good again in 2019.”

He said there had already been a 30 per cent price increase to growers and while he expected that to be passed on to consumers he did not think it would be “big proportions”, before returning to normal the following year.

Ms McGowan said industry figures would be meeting in Port Lincoln on June 5 to discuss the impact of the lack of spat on the industry and measures to recovery.

“We are having a workshop with PIRSA (Primary Industries and Regions South Australia) and RDA (Regional Development Australia) and after that we will have a better idea of how we move forward.”

Ms McGowan said she was confident the industry would ride get through this uncertainty and there were already signs of growth.

“We have got to ride it through and our growers are aware of that but we will come out the other side,” she said.

“The government has been helpful with South Australian hatcheries to increase quantities.

“Tasmanian hatchery Cameron started producing spat six weeks ago and Eyre Shellfish in Cowell will produce spat in the upcoming months.”

Mr Zippel agreed there were brighter times ahead.

“There will be a rapid rise in production down the track and it is interesting to see where that goes as it could lead to an oversupply.”

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