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Shellshocked by the COVID crisis, mussel farmers find a lifeline in premium retail

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Shellshocked by the COVID crisis, mussel farmers find a lifeline in premium retail
Copyright  Euronews

How have mussel farmers managed to survive the COVID crisis? Premium retail has thrown them a lifeline.

"Our business was significantly affected by the COVID pandemic last March, because obviously in the initial stages of COVID, everything shut down quite suddenly, there was no movement," says John Harrington, the managing director of Kush Seafarms.

"Now, as we've got into this coming season, things are better in that, not every place is completely frozen up because of it. Restaurants are opening in one country, they're shut in another country, and the demand is kind of come up for the product again."

"People have to eat, and we're in the food business, so at the end of the day, that never stops, does it?"

"It's been a real challenge in Ireland because we are export-orientated, so we are obviously targeting a lot of high-end foodservice outlets," says Richard Donnelly, Salmon and Shellfish Manager at BIM --Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency.

"But just to show how dynamic the industry is, they've been able to move and change markets and drive more sales into the high-end retail. We have seen certainly a reduction in the volumes going out, but the price point has actually remained relatively high."

"We've actually kept the same level more or less, in all our products from 2019 to 2020. So, for instance, our organic salmon is now being sold much more in retail, because people said, I will treat myself to a higher quality product, I'll pay the premium price for a quality product. So we've been able to maintain that market share."

"Our oysters, likewise, are exported out to Asian markets. The volume has reduced, but the consumers are still paying the price for that premium product. And we've also seen the same on mussels. It's been challenging."

"We've had to diverse away from that food service. But the consumer is now going into retailers and saying, I will pay extra for a sustainably produced quality product. And it has certainly kept the industry going, but it has not been without its challenges."