Oyster shortages as floods wipe out $17m stock
The state's thriving oyster industry has entirely washed out to sea in recent floods, leaving devastated oyster farmers counting the costs and consumers facing sky-high prices at the dinner table.
The industry has been battered over the past 18 months, first by bushfires, then COVID restaurant closures and floods, and growers warn it could take years for farms to recover.
NSW Farmers oyster chair Todd Graham said the impact of the floods on the industry was statewide and "current indications do not look good".
"As of last Friday, oyster farmers have reported $17 million in lost stock and damage to farm equipment and sheds, but not all oyster farmers have been able to assess losses yet," Mr Graham said.
NSW Farmers reported the economic value of oyster production across the state was worth almost $60 million in 2018 to 2019.
But after recent flooding wreaked havoc on the industry "every single estuary along the NSW coastline is closed for harvest", Mr Graham said.
"Stock and infrastructure have been washed away, sheds and equipment have been flooded, and growing areas are filled with debris, potential contaminants and an influx of fresh water," he said.
"It takes about three years to grow mature oysters so for growers who have lost stock, it's not just a loss for this season, they may not have anything to sell for three years."
With NSW the largest producer of the popular Sydney rock oyster, Frank Theodorou from GetFish said "as far as NSW is concerned every farm is shut".
"Tide currents are quite strong and powerful so they've uplifted and uprooted leases and basically they've completely lost them," Mr Theodorou said.
"So those farmers will be struggling as they will be starting from scratch again."
GetFish are currently flying Sydney rock oysters from Western Australia to supply their Easter Show stall. Mr Theodorou said consumers could expect to see an increase in oyster prices on the menu.
"We've had to increase our prices due to freight charges," he said.
"You'll find that there are not going to be too many restaurants out there with local oysters on the plate."
Originally published as Oyster shortages as floods wipe out $17m stock