Bivalves report steady demand and high prices

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 contracted slightly in the first quarter of 2019, compared with the same period of last year. Imports were 67 000 tonnes, a 4 percent decline from the corresponding period in 2018. Main importing countries were France, Italy and the United States of America. Exports reflected the same decline, even though Chile, the world’s main exporter of mussels, reported a 20 percent increase in sales, while Spain and the Netherlands reported lower exports. Chilean exports of mussels are mainly in the category 1605, i.e. prepared and preserved mussels. In 2018, exports of this product reached 80 000 tonnes, with Spain and the Russian Federation importing 12 500 tonnes each. While for Spain this represented a 15 percent decline, for the Russian Federation it meant an increase of 40 percent from 2017.

Mussel demand in the Russian Federation, the world's largest country by landmass encompassing 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 south boost foodservice demand. Consumption is very seasonal and strong in the summer. Russian Federation consumers started to get a taste for mussels from Chile in 2015, a year that the rouble’s devaluation relative to other currencies hurt Russians' ability to import other products. Presently, Chilean mussels have become a well-accepted product in the Russian Federation market, and it is likely that this year the Russian Federation will overtake Spain as the major outlet for Chilean mussels.


China is the main player in scallop trade, but the country reported lower imports and exports during the first quarter 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 is also a main scallop-producing country. Domestic landings during the 2018– 2019 season increased and further increase is likely to materialize in the 2019–2020 season. The catches between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 amounted to 25 000 tonnes and for the coming season about 28 000 tonnes are expected. The 2018–2019 increase in availability led to relatively low prices in 2018. Surprisingly, prices increased in early 2019 and stayed high also in June, when normally prices tend to move downward. This unusual price development makes the outlook difficult.

Scallop exports from Peru fluctuate as much as production does. The export volume fluctuated between almost 15 000 tonnes in 2013 and 3 100 tonnes in 2017 to 5 800 tonnes in 2018. Although there are exceptions, such as in 2013 when the United States of America was the largest market, usually France is the most important market for Peruvian scallops.

The French market is also relatively stable. Although exports to France fluctuate according to availability of the product, this fluctuation is less severe than it is in other markets such as the United States of America. In the first three months of 2019, Peruvian exports of frozen scallops reached 2 000 tonnes, about 1 300 tonnes more than in the same period of 2018, reflecting the return of Peruvian scallops to normal levels.


France is the main importer and exporter of oysters. During the review period, oyster trade was quite stable. In the summer, market for oysters in France is typically slower due to high temperature. Overall, oyster is the least important commodity in the bivalve international trade.


Clams are important in the bivalve international trade. It is mainly carried out between China (exporter) and Japan and the Republic of Korea (importers). In Europe, the main clamconsuming countries are Italy and Spain, mainly supplied by domestic production, from both capture and aquaculture. In the first quarter of 2019, trade was about stable at 2018 levels.


Mussels are expected to increase their presence in new markets, such as the Russian Federation and the United States of America. Prices are likely to go up in line with additional demand. The European Union (Member Organization), the largest market for scallops, with an average of 40 000 tonnes and 15 percent higher prices than the United States of America, has reapproved China for scallop exports to the EU28, from which it had been banned since 2007. It is likely that China will increase its scallop exports to the EU28 significantly, which means Chinese products will compete with those from other scallop suppliers.

The French research institution IFREMER have indicated through their oyster monitoring program the occurrence of higher oyster mortalities this summer in seed oysters, though it is too early to compare precisely with last year’s results. The extremely hot summer in late June has had an impact on oyster mortality. The outlook for oyster production is bleak, with less production and probably higher prices towards the end of the year. Clam prices in Southern Europe are likely to continue sky-high, as demand is surpassing supply. Some price normalization is expected towards the end of the year, when sales will start to slow down.