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Ireland’s Oyster Producers Rise to Market Challenges

13th February 2020
 Oystercatchers - From left to right Teresa Morrissey, IFA Aquaculture, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole and Patricia Daly, BIM Oystercatchers - From left to right Teresa Morrissey, IFA Aquaculture, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole and Patricia Daly, BIM Photo: Maxwells

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in association with IFA Aquaculture, is hosting a two-day seminar today (Thursday 13th February 2020) for members of Ireland’s vibrant oyster farming sector, valued at €43million according to the latest (2018) Business of Seafood report. The sold-out event, taking place in Carlingford, Co Louth, has attracted participants from more than 85% of businesses in the industry.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole said, “The demand for Irish oysters continues to increase in Ireland and overseas. Consumers in Europe and Asia are actively seeking out Irish oysters and cite the unique characteristics and diversity in taste between brands. This strong and growing reputation has translated into strong prices for Irish oysters and excellence in food safety management and stringent attention to quality control among industry members accounts for much of these successes. BIM continues to support and work closely with the sector. It is a sector that has enormous potential to continue in its upwards growth trajectory and to further benefit those living and working in coastal communities throughout Ireland.”

The sector enjoyed a positive year in 2018, according to the BIM Business of Seafood report, producing an all-time high of 10,300 tonnes of oysters and employing 1,300 people nationwide. The seminar is taking place in an area renowned for its quality oyster production and will feature presentations from a host of experts on practical topics of immediate interest to the Irish sector.

Despite recent health and socio-economic challenges presented by the Asian market that have affected exports Irish oyster producers remain at the forefront of the luxury offering, with the sector showing continued investment in packaging and branding, focusing on Irish oyster’s superior quality. The latest figures show nearly 30% of Irish oysters are now packed and branded in Ireland prior to export, adding extra value to the sector. While France remains our largest export market at 74% of total export volume in 2018, we are continuing to diversify into alternative European markets such as the Netherlands and Belgium (2019 saw a 31% increase in exports to the Netherlands).

The morning session will include short ‘flash’ presentations from IFA Aquaculture on where we are as an industry, the latest BIM initiatives which aim to further promote sustainability, innovation and competitiveness in the Oyster Sector as well as some of the more innovative approaches from industry to further develop their businesses.

The second part of the morning session will look at some of the results from BIM’s Bluefish Climate Change project, funded by the Ireland Wales Programme. There will be an overview of our current trade position and opportunities for further expansion. We will also be joined by Bord Bia to highlight oyster promotional events in Europe throughout 2020 and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to take us through some of the possible implications of Brexit in terms of food safety regulations.

Speakers from the Marine Institute, the SFPA and other industry experts will focus the afternoon session on topics such as water quality biosecurity, biotoxins and other environmental factors which significantly affect both oyster production and trade

The final aspect of the workshop will be an informed panel discussion, based on the day's presentations and addressing questions posed by workshop attendees.

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