The opening business event of Galway’s 2013 International Oyster & Seafood Festival, the conference has attracted strong turn-out from Irish growers, who after France, now form the largest oyster grower group in the EU and are the star performers in Ireland’s shellfish exports for 2012/13 which reached a record €74 million.
Irish oyster farmers produce around 9,000 tonnes each year with 86 per cent of production being exported to France, a target market which according to BIM’s Aquaculture Business Development Manager, Richard Donnelly, “could be doubled for the Irish industry who in the last two years have seen prices go from €3,500 to €4,500 per tonne.”
Conference delegates heard how this growth opportunity for Irish oysters is not restricted to production increases. Product differentiation and branding will be key to capitalising on growth opportunities in new markets where the demand for quality Irish oyster is rapidly accelerating.
Commenting on this encouraging trend, Mr Donnelly said: “The Irish oyster industry has a tradition of selling directly to intermediate distributors in the French market. But this approach offers little brand recognition. Already, Irish oysters are sold at the quality end or ‘Spéciale’ segment of the French market. Our coastline with its excellent water quality is uniquely suited to the cultivation of quality oysters. We need to capitalise on that by achieving greater brand awareness. BIM is eager for producers to take control of the marketing process and work on developing their own identity particularly in the newer international markets such as Hong Kong and China.”
“Building the Irish oyster brand awareness strategy has already seen some success. Irish Premium Oysters and Majestic Donegal Oysters are now becoming well renowned among discerning customers for their superior quality and taste. With new markets like China and Asia opening up for Irish seafood exports strong branding is now an imperative”, added Mr Donnelly.
In 2013, against a background of challenging global and domestic market conditions, Ireland’s seafood sector continue to grow and trade impressively with exports up five per cent and domestic market +1.9 per cent.
The total Irish retail market for seafood has increased by two per cent or €3.6 milluon, worth a total of €192 million per year. This equates to two per cent of the total Irish grocery market.