New consumers of bivalves

Bivalves are in huge demand worldwide, with new consumers starting to appreciate this seafood. The production of bivalves is growing, applying new technology, such as offshore production areas, in order to meet the ever-growing demand. Different from other seafood, bivalves are mainly going to the domestic market, and trade is rather limited. This pattern might change soon, with new value-added products entering the scene. Prices are high and rising in most markets.


World mussel production continues to grow. Current estimates place the 2018 production at 2.2 million tonnes, more than double the amount produced ten years ago. Main producers were China, Chile, Spain Thailand and New Zealand. Buying interest for this inexpensive species is strong and growing, opening up new consumers for the product. At present the US market is mainly supplied by imports, at about 35?000 tonnes per year, provided mainly by Canada, Chile and New Zealand. One company is planning to produce some 9?000 tonnes already in 2020, which would be six times the present mussel production in the United States of America. Chile is one of the major mussel producers in the world, mainly focused on export markets.

Mussel is the second major aquaculture product from Chile, behind salmon. Two massive producers merged in early 2019, creating a company able to produce 50?000 tonnes per year. This consolidation is very much in line with the trend experienced by the Chilean salmon industry in the recent years. This bigger company will be more efficient and able to promote Chilean mussels in emerging markets. Total world trade in mussels experienced a decline in 2018. Exports dropped from 373?000 tonnes in 2017 to 360?000 tonnes in 2018. Main exporters were Chile and Spain, who experienced some growth in exports. Imports also declined, mirroring the export drops. Main importing countries were Italy, France and the Netherlands, all reporting lower trade. Mussels continued to be one of the cheapest seafoods in the market, with value at around USD 2.00 per kg of live weight, but the sustained demand has enabled substantial growth in prices during the course of 2018.


US harvesters landed roughly 30?000 tonnes of Atlantic scallops in 2018, including many large scallops, which helped to decrease prices to as low as USD 9 for 10/20s, the most common size, nearly all spring and summer of last year. This availability put scallops back on the menu in US restaurants. It also made the country more independent of Canadian imports, which created some problems for the local producers there. No clear trend emerges from trade data, as imports grew somewhat in 2018, while exports were reportedly lower. China is the world’s major producer, exporter and importer of scallops. World volume of scallops entering international trade was low just over 100?000 tonnes, with China accounting for one third of both the exports and imports.


End of year sales of oysters in France were relatively good in spite of the yellow vest movements that blocked transport of goods before the Christmas period. Oyster mortality in 2018 was higher than in previous years, which will lead to lower output in 2019. As a result of high demand and low availability in the market, oyster prices are likely to go up. Oyster trade was stagnant to decreasing in 2018. France, the main exporting country, reported a slight decline in exports. Main importing countries include the United States of America and France.


Clam is among the most expensive bivalves and seafood products, as the yield is very low, when compared with mussels or scallops. China dominates clam exports, mainly directed towards Japan and the Republic of Korea. Trade in 2018 contracted, but still about 250?000 tonnes of clams enter international trade in 2018.


This year is likely to be another bonanza year for the Atlantic scallop fisheries in the United States of America. A total production of 30?000 tonnes is likely to be harvested in 2019, based on the limits expected to be set by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Demand for bivalves is strong and prices are expected to increase for all products. Some product diversification is taking place, with the intent to find consumers also among the younger generations. These attempts have been successful, and these new products are likely to dominate the markets in coming years. There is no major impediment to increased bivalve production in all main producing countries, as fish farms further away from the coast can start to operate.

Oysters have a great market potential, being one of the highest valued seafood items in terms of consumer appreciation. France is among the main exporters of this product. The main consumption period will be the Christmas period, but supply of oysters is likely to be low due to high mortalities in France during the 2018 summer, which is likely to impact also the production in 2019. Chinese scallop production will be impacted in the coming two years by the dying of young scallops experienced in early 2018. The lack of domestic supply will lead to increased imports into the country from other scallop producing countries.