Bivalves report steady demand and high prices


The summer in Europe is the main sales period for mussels, scallops and clams, while oysters are less in demand due to health considerations. Prices are high for all species, while trade in the first quarter of 2019 was stable.


Mussel trade expanded by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2023, when compared with the same period of last year. Imports were 68 000 tonnes, 4 000 tonnes more than in the corresponding period of 2022. Main importing countries were France, Italy and the United States of America, which is a normal pattern. Exports reflected the strong increase in Chilean shipments, which went up from 18 300 tonnes in the first quarter of 2022 to 25 200 tonnes in the first quarter of 2023. This was mainly due to a recovery in exports from Chile to the Russian Federation, which had suffered last year from restrictions in trade due to the Ukraine conflict. Apparently traders in the Russian Federation are filling up their inventories of frozen mussel meat. Mussel demand in the Russian Federation, which is the world's largest country by land mass and encompasses 11 time zones, includes whole and half-shell mussels, as well as mussel meat. Within the Russian Federation, the larger cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are driving retail demand and resort towns in the Russian Federation's south boost foodservice demand.

Spain and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, too, reported higher exports. The latter even experienced a 80 percent increase in export volume to reach 13 000 tonnes in the first quarter of the year.

Demand for mussels was strong in the starting months of 2023, and indications speak about further increases in sales. As supply is good this year, prices of mussels have started to come down a bit, which makes the product even more attractive in the market.


China is a main player in scallop trade, but the country reported both lower imports and exports during the first quarter of 2023 when compared to the same period of last year. Most of the scallop imports are reprocessed in the country and then exported with some type of value addition.

The second major importer is the United States of America, which are also a main scallop producing country. Imports during the first quarter of 2023 went down by almost 50 percent. The domestic scallop industry is experiencing some problems. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) set the 2023 fishing year specifications for the Atlantic sea scallop fishery at roughly 25 million pounds (11 340 tonnes) of landings valued at roughly USD 398 million, this is about 9 million pounds less than in 2022. Biomass has gone down considerably over the past few years, but the NEFMC reports that scallops are not overfished.

Scallop exports showed a surprisingly strong performance of Japan, which exported 17 000 tonnes in the first quarter of the year, more or less in line with the 2022 figure, but very high when compared with the 2021 exports of a mere 580 tonnes. Peru which started to recover its scallop fisheries experienced some problems again in 2023, probably also linked to the El Niño phenomenon. France is now the third major exporter of scallops with 3 100 tonnes in the first quarter of 2023, some 1 000 tonnes more than in the same period of last year.


France is both a major importer and exporter of oysters. However, in the first quarter of 2023, the Kingdom of the Netherlands reported an amazing performance. Total oyster exports reached 5 500 tonnes during this period, which compares to 1 700 tonnes in the first quarter of last year. France thus lost its top position as oyster exporter to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as its own exports were stable at 3 300 tonnes.

In the summer, the market for oysters in Europe is typically slower due to high temperature. Prices went down over the course of the summer months, but are expected to increase over the course of the year, once the temperatures return to normal. 


Clams are an important item with regard to international trade. It is mainly carried out between China (exporter) and Japan and the Republic of Korea (importers). In Europe, the main clam consuming countries are Italy and Spain, mainly supplied by domestic production, both capture and aquaculture production. In the first quarter of 2023 trade went down by 10 percent, due to lower sales from Portugal and Spain.


Overall bivalves showed lower price levels in 2023 than last year, a trend which makes it a very competitive product when compared with other seafood items, which experienced price increases of over 10 percent in the past twelve months. Bivalves are an attractive item for the HORECA sector, and consumption is expanding. In Italy, lower production of bivalves this year is likely due to various issues linked to climate change, but also due to predation of invasive species in many marine areas where bivalves are raised. As a result, this attractive market might start to import more bivalves from neighbouring countries.

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