Oyster farms launch market search

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
12 July 2007, at 1:00am

AUSTRALIA - AQAFOOD chief executive Laurie Ziatas expects his company to become one of Australia's largest aquaculture food exporters, offering a "basket of seafood" products to overseas markets.

His start-up company has already drawn a high-profile investor, with ASX-listed Futuris taking a 50 per cent stake of subsidiary Aqa Oysters for an undisclosed sum last month. The investment gives Aqa Oysters the means to gain a 60 per cent share of Australian Pacific oyster production within 12 months through acquisitions of rivals and organic growth, he said.

Aqa Oysters has been on a multimillion-dollar spending spree, buying 10 quality oyster farms this year – eight in SA and two in Tasmania – with expectations of adding another 10 farms to its portfolio. "Integration is our biggest challenge," Mr Ziatas said of the fragmented oyster industry.

The aim is to increase the farms' productivity and the quality of its oysters to obtain three times the wholesale price of oysters for high-end consumers overseas. Currently, one dozen oysters sell wholesale for between $4.20 and $5.50.

"Where we are selling them is anywhere where they pay for quality – Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore," Mr Ziatas said. "Our focus is also in the United Arab Emirates. Australia currently exports just 3-4 per cent of its oysters. Our conservative estimates are that we can increase this to 10-20 per cent within 12 months through contracts we already have in place or are currently negotiating."

Most SA-grown oysters needed to be plumper, larger and of better quality to meet export standards, Mr Ziatas said.

Oyster production was 25-35 million oysters a year, with aims to at least double that within the next 18-24 months. Oyster exports were the beachhead for Aqafood's growth strategy, which would add atlantic salmon, ocean trout and abalone to its menu. It plans to seek a listing on the Australian Securities Exchange in two or three years.

Source: Adelaide Now