France

French oysters not so aphrodisiacal this Christmas

Alan Hughes

It could be an expensive Christmas for oyster-lovers in France this year as a mystery virus decimates stocks of the shellfish throughout France. Stocks of the traditional festive delicacy will be 40 per cent lower than in a normal year, according to France’s National Committee of Shellfish Farming (CNC).

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Over the last two and a half years oysters in France have been attacked by a mysterious virus known as OsHV-1. Since oysters take up to three years to grow to an edible size this is the first year the virus’ effect will be fully felt by oyster-lovers.

The oyster-killing virus is likely to see oyster yields drop from around 130,000 tonnes to 80,000 tonnes for the 2010/2011 season. It could then drop even lower to 50,000 tonnes the following year, according to the CNC.

The shortage is likely to mean price hikes for what is known as les huîtres. Consumers could see price increases of up to 15 per cent once the effect of the reduced supply is felt in seafood restaurants.

There have been some government-funded attempts to support the development of immune strains but in practice these have so far been unsuccessful.

Directives from the European Commission came into force earlier this year which outlined the testing, containment and restriction of movement. These measures are due to be revisited at the end of the year.

Oyster growers in the north western French town of Cancale remain worried that their livelihood could be destroyed if a solution to the virus is not found.

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