Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

As restaurants and gastro pubs prepare to re-open next week, Achill Oysters, a successful oyster producer, is urging restaurants to include local oysters and seafood on their menus to help offset the economic impact of COVID-19

Hugh O’Malley, owner and farmer of Achill Oysters, based on Achill Island, Co. Mayo, explains how supporting local businesses particularly in remote coastal areas is crucial at this time:

“We produce premium Irish rock oysters for the domestic and international market. Pre COVID-19, our international business was thriving. We were exporting over two tonnes of oysters to China every week on top of orders to Singapore, Taiwan, the UK, Iceland and the Netherlands.

“We have seen a 80% drop in our export sales but I am confident we, and the rest of the industry, will recover. Until then, we have an opportunity to work with restaurants to grow the domestic oyster market and in doing so, directly and indirectly support Irish businesses”

Irish oysters are renowned worldwide for their quality achieving premium prices, particularly on Asian markets. The majority of Irish oysters grown around our coast are exported to meet this international demand.

The domestic market for seafood, however,  is growing year on year with the latest figures estimating the sector to be worth €496 million in 2019. The main growth is in the foodservice sector with seafood becoming increasingly popular in our restaurants and gastro pubs.

Hugh saw the opportunities for oyster farming early on and he knows just how important local maritime businesses are to the community. Five generations of O’Malley’s have made a living from the sea in Achill. Following a successful career running his own technology firm, Hugh has used his IT and entrepreneurial skills, to develop the business.

After only six years of trading, he has grown the business from 50kg of stock arriving on the farm in 2014 to a farm ten times the size, a processing facility in Ennis, Co. Clare and an e-commerce solution to sell his oysters online.

Hugh concluded; “Our oysters take three and a half years to reach market size. Like a fine wine, their taste is defined by how well they are tended to and the quality of their environment. We couldn’t have a better location than Achill Island. We are proud to be part of this community employing local people on our farm.

“We are also very grateful to our Irish customers and fishmongers who have continued to support us. In fact, our online sales increased twentyfold during the lockdown. If COVID-19 has thought us anything, it is to continue to appreciate what we have in this country including fantastic seafood right on our doorstep”

Achill Oysters has won numerous awards and accreditations including a Great Taste Award, the first ever Eurotoques seafood award and membership of Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme.

For more information on Achill Oysters and how you can order online, please visit www.achilloysters.com