Seafood restaurants, businesses dealing with oyster shortage

The price hike is making it difficult to keep on the menu. In Louisiana, oysters sold for $60 a gallon before Hurricane Ida last year.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:57 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - If you’re looking for those seafood staples this weekend, there’s a chance you won’t be able to find them. That’s due to a shortage of supply and an increased demand. Now, coast suppliers are working hard to keep them on their menus.

Seafood business owner Sean Desporte tasted his own product. He knows, lately, oysters have become a hot commodity, causing some seafood spots to no longer sell them.

“I’ve heard a lot of restaurants in Louisiana have taken them off their menu,” Desporte said.

Because oysters are hard to come by these days, the price of pints, quarts, gallons, and sacks has increased. That means Desporte is paying more.

“They were a little hard to get, so of course I take care of the vendors that sell to me, to make sure they take care of us,” said Desporte. “I give them a little more money so that we have them and don’t run out.”

In Gulfport, at the Coast Foods warehouse, they loaded up as well.

“These are what we call mini sacks,” said Coast Foods President Mark McQueen. “They average about 40 pounds each. We average around 1,500 to 1,800 sacks per week that we use to get for a couple of different suppliers.”

McQueen says several factors have caused the issue, but most of the problem can be traced to the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

“The oystermen put shell down, but the freshwater came through,” he recalled. “The spat didn’t get a chance to set on the fresh shell. So that puts it about six months behind. Right now we’re looking at six to eight months before the industry can kind of recover.”

Texas also had a bad season, and was forced to shut down early. That created even more supply-chain issues.

“We’ll order 600 sacks and we might get 300,” he added. “It’s a constant catch-up game at this point.”

Since last year, the cost of sack oysters has increased about 35%. And even if the trend continues, McQueen and Desporte say they’ll do their best to continue supplying.

“We’re not going to run out,” remarked Desporte.

The price of oysters in most restaurants has increased for customers as well. In Louisiana, oysters sold for $60 a gallon before Hurricane Ida. Right now they are selling for almost $100 a gallon.

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