18th November

Ireland's oyster sector needs 'practical government support'

Delegates at a one-day conference on Ireland’s oyster industry were told of the “excellent opportunities” in EU and Far East markets in particular, for branded quality assured Irish oysters.

With technical, financial and business development assistance, “BIM aims to ensure that Irish growers are best placed to take advantage of the current favourable environment,” remarked Donal Maguire, Director of Aquaculture Development.

2014 Irish industry oyster workshop

Patrick Dwyer, Ballyhack, Co Wexford; Pat Movan, Cheekpoint, Co  Wexford; Seamus Hayes, Dungarvan, Co Waterford and Brian O’Loan, BIM

L to R: William Dwyer, Ballyhack, Co Wexford; Paudie Coffey, TD; Jim Harty, Dungarvan Shellfish and Tadhg O Maoileoin, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. 

Opening the event organised by BIM and IFA Aquaculture, Paudie Coffey, T.D highlighted the importance of this sector to the economy:

“Ireland produces premium quality oysters that demand a high price on our key overseas markets, particularly France and the Far East. This achievement is testament to the hard work of our oyster producers … who have worked hard to achieve a high level of quality assurance with assistance from BIM.

 “I am particularly pleased to learn that production has increased to 8,700 tonnes as has employment with the sector now supporting 1,100 jobs nationally. With Waterford accounting for 40% of the overall production, this is good news for the local community and the economy as a whole.”

Functioning licence system

IFA Aquaculture executive Richie Flynn however noted that Ireland’s 130 oyster producers needed “practical support” by a way of a “working licence system and vital capital aid”.

He added that farmers who want to meet the worldwide demand for Irish oysters and play on a level pitch with other EU competitors “must have a responsive speedy licencing system for access to good inter-tidal growing areas.

“They need full access to EU funding mechanisms, denied to them by national bureaucracy for the last five years, to buy the best equipment, improve handling areas and invest in transport of this precious live product to markets at home in Europe, the US and Asia,” he said.

Talks and panel discussions followed on research projects, BIM business support programmes, industry perspectives and marketing to existing and new markets. University College Cork, the Marine Institute, Queen’s University Belfast and Bournemouth University presented the research papers and Jim Harty, Dungarvan Shellfish and Iarfhlaith Connellan, Redbank Shellfish gave industry perspectives.

Farming of Pacific oysters (the most common oyster species farmed in Ireland) only began in Ireland in the 1970s but has grown considerably over the last 35 years and is now a thriving business. The sector also contributes almost €50m to Ireland’s seafood exports. France remains the key export country followed by Hong Kong.

Irish oysters are currently demanding an average price of €5.50/kg. In 2013, Ireland’s seafood sector was worth €810m including exports of €484m. Overall, exports were down on 2012; shellfish exports however were the exception up 5% on 2012, valued at €168m.

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