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‘It’s a very tough year for the oyster industry’: High oyster prices will likely remain so for months

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 7:14 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - If you were planning to eat oysters this weekend, or attend the oyster festival in Amite, you better get ready to pay high prices.

Heavy demand, and short supply, or forcing oyster processors to pay up to $70 a sack at the dock.

The Louisiana oyster industry has been hit by a triple whammy and its not good for seafood lovers.

“It’s a very tough year for the oyster industry and I know the consumers can see sticker shock but there’s a lot of costs that’s driven up our cost of producing that oyster,” said Raz Halili, with Prestige Oysters.

Too many freshwater supply chain issues are being felt across the country, and too many hurricanes have taken a severe toll.

“Once again we were devastated, probably 50% of the oyster crop in Louisiana had some sort of damage,” said Mitch Jurisich with the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

Compounding the problem, Texas recently shut down thousands of acres of oyster producing waters, and one of the largest oyster processors in the country says he’s had to lay off hundreds of workers.

“It’s been extremely tough, normally we’re employing upwards of 500 people right now we’re down to 50 or so,” said Halili.

Wholesale prices are up by as much as 40% at the dock.

“We are getting a dockside value of $70 which I never thought would be possible,” said Jurisich.

High oyster prices caused organizers of this weekend’s oyster festival in Amite to cancel one of their most popular events.

“We’re doing everything we’re normally doing but we’re not doing the oyster eating contest,” said Festival chairman Trea Coxen.

Some restaurants discontinued certain oyster items, while others have added a surcharge.

“The shortage is real, there is a big-time shortage in oysters right now,” said Jurisich.

Though the industry is hurting and prices are through the roof, a member of the oyster task force says there is some good news.

“One thing I will tell you is that what mother nature takes away from us she gives us back tenfold and that’s something we’re saying with new recruitment coming on our oyster grounds,” said Jurisich.

But Jurisich worries that some of that new crop could be over harvested due to heavy demand.

“At the harvesting rate we have these oysters are going to be pretty stressed,” he said.

As will consumers who will continue to pay high prices for oysters for the next several months.

Oysters sold for $60 a gallon before hurricane Ida last year. Right now they are selling for almost $100 a gallon.

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