Restaurant demand leads to sky high prices in Europe


Demand for bivalves continued to rise in the third quarter of 2021, due to the reopening of restaurants in Europe. The reopening of restaurants combined with other foodservice activity boosted summer demand, in particular for high-end priced products including mussels and clams. Prices of bivalves, normally relatively stable, increased by 20-30 percent over 2019 levels. Fortunately, the higher logistic costs are not impacting this product, as it generally travels little and normally by road.

Brexit stills impacts European bivalve supply

A Scottish scallop boat was brought up and then released by French authorities in the Baie de Seine for allegedly catching without a license. This was a reaction to a breaking up of discussions between UK and French authorities in recent months. The G20 meeting in Italy was used for bilateral discussion between the French and UK leaders, but the results are clear.


Prices continue to go up in the mussel market. Live mussels are now selling at EUR 3.99 per kg in Italy, which compares to about EUR 2.00 per kg just a few months ago.

Trade recovered strongly after the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 80 000 tonnes of mussels were imported into the European Union in the first half of 2021, which compares to 73 000 tonnes during the same period of last year. However, the 2021 figure is still about 15 000 tonnes short of the corresponding 2019 figure. Chile continues to be the main supplier to the European market, with 20 000 tonnes in the first half of the year. Spain reported higher exports of live mussels, mainly to the French market. On the other hand, the Netherlands reported a disappointing harvest in 2021, due to bad weather. As a result, exports of mussels from the Netherlands recovered only marginally from the 2020 result, and were well below the first half of 2019 numbers.

Mussel farmers are developing new product forms, such as ready to ear mussel products. The costumer is more and more interested in easy to cook products, and mussels are in the forefront of this product development.


Oyster production in France, the main producing country in Europe, was impacted by bad weather this year. In 2020, oyster producers were heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Thus, farmers are going through difficult times at the moment. Some are likely to go out of business. Prices have increased during the opening months of the year, while they were stable in summer months, as this is not a main consumption period of oysters in Europe.

Oyster trade recovered in the first half of 2021 from the very low levels reached last year. Some 30 000 tonnes were exported, 8 000 tonnes more than in the first half of 2020, however, this amount is still some 2 000 tonnes of the first half of 2019 results. The United States of America is the main importer of oyster with some 6 700 tonnes in the first half of the year, which is well ahead of the corresponding 2020 amount, but also ahead of the 2019 figure. France doubled its imports of oysters in the first half of the year, in an attempt to replace the limited domestic production.


Trade in scallops recovered well from the 2020 results. Some 26 000 tonnes of additional scallops entered international trade in the first half of the year for a total of 96 000 tonnes. It is interesting to note that this performance is also well ahead of the first half of 2019 imports. China was both the main importing and exporting country of scallops. Peru reported a great performance, doubling its exports to the world market. Surprisingly, these additional quantities were not directed to the traditional outlet for Peruvian scallops, the European Union. Prices of scallops increased impressively during the past months.

The US scallop industry reported lower scallop catches in 2021, with prices that were sky high, especially for the large specimens. Next year’s production is also expected to be limited, which will further increase the price levels of scallops in the US market.


Clam prices increased impressively in Italy. Retail prices reached EUR 19.90 per kg for Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum), while in 2019 this product was selling at EUR 9.90 per kg. Prices of the wild venus clam is far lower at 3.99 per kg, with the larger Japanese carpet shell five times the price of the venus clam, which should make consumers return to the venus clam in the short while.

Japan and the Republic of Korea are the main importing countries of clams. In the first half of 2021, imports declined somewhat for these two importers. China is by far the main supplier of clam to the world market, accounting alone for 60 percent of total clam exports. China managed to increase exports of clams during the first half of 2021 over last year’s performance but is still about 8 000 tonnes short of the corresponding 2019 exports. Overall trade in clams, however, increased to 133 000 tonnes in the first half of the year.


An exceptionally cool summer in 2021 has led to slower growth rates and potential strains on shellfish supply in France, especially for certain oyster grades, which may be felt towards the end of the year. Christmas is typically one of the peak consumption periods of oysters, so supply problems are likely to lead to higher prices.

Overall, the bivalve market is less impacted by high logistical costs than other fish, as trade is mainly local. Nevertheless, supply is below demand, and further price hikes are expected in coming months, at least until the turn of the year.

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