As the NSW oyster harvest looms, growers look outside ‘super scared’ Sydney for customers | Ralph-Lauren

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A fresh-seafood business owner on the NSW Mid North Coast says lockdowns are creating a fear of spending on delicacies such as oysters.

With Greater Sydney in lockdown for an additional four weeks until August 28, regional towns are dealing with a downturn in spending, due to the lack of winter trade and a change in spending habits.

Shannon Lindsay took over the family retail business, Lindsay’s Oyster Barn, two years ago and said at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 sales were skyrocketing, but this year was different.

“The first part of the [pandemic] was pretty good, they were still shopping, and shopping locally was good,” he said.

He said sales had plummeted by about 50 per cent this year.

A man buys local fresh seafood in a retail store
Businesses are becoming more reliant on local trade as Sydney’s lockdown continues. (

ABC Coffs Coast: Kate Aubrey

)

Chair of the NSW Farmers Oysters Committee Todd Graham said there was a fair bit of online trade last year, but during this lockdown local processors were not taking as many seafood orders.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of local processors on the Mid North Coast and they’re just saying this time around people haven’t got the money to be buying seafood.

Mr Graham said the floods had also set many farmers on the Mid North Coast back about two to three years, as they tried to rebuild their stocks.

Floods hit oyster farmers 

Urunga oyster farmer John Lindsay, who operates on the Kalang River, hopes Sydney restaurants will be back open in time for the Spring harvest, since his last harvest was before the floods in December 2020.

An oyster farmer is standing by the river shucking oysters
John Lindsay has been growing oysters for 35 years on the Kalang River on the NSW Mid North Coast.(

ABC Coffs Coast: Kate Aubrey

)

Mr Lindsay said while oysters can stay in the river for a long time things were getting a “little bit tight”.

“We need to harvest them so we can sell them and make some money,” he said.

But he remains hopeful Sydney will be reopened just in time for harvest, which is just four weeks away.

Markets reopen

But as Queensland plunges into a snap three-day lockdown and Greater Sydney remains closed until August 28, major processors and suppliers are turning to open markets like Melbourne.

Davin Charlesworth at Australia’s Oyster Coast said they saw an “immediate resurgence” when Melbourne opened back up.

“While people can’t go into restaurants, sales are lost and people won’t necessarily go back and buy more.”

He said trade was dependent on other states remaining open, such as WA and Queensland.

“We’re in the fortunate position in that we supply nationally, which allows us to continue to support the farmer network as best we can,” he said.

Urunga oyster farmer John Lindsay smiling at his shed
John Lindsay hopes for a big harvest season following the floods(

ABC Coffs Coast: Kate Aubrey

)

Mr Lindsay said despite the disasters over the past few years and the pandemic — it was worth it.



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