French oyster producers await aid package

Last month, the Xynthia windstorm ravaged oyster operations in the Charente Maritime and Vendée regions of western France.

At the time, Bruno Le Maire, the country’s fisheries and agriculture minister, announced EUR 20 million in aid to help local shellfish producers reconstruct their operations.

But before the funds are released, the aid package needs the green light from Brussels. At a meeting in Brussels this week, Le Maire urged Maria Damanaki, Europe’s new fisheries commissioner, to rapidly sign-off on his EUR 20 million aid package.
Last month’s storm hurt an industry already reeling from diseases that have plundered juvenile oyster stocks along the French coast, severely depleting supplies. This year, French oyster production is expected to be 40 percent less than in 2009.

According to the country’s shellfish ombudsman, the CNC (Comite National de la Conchyliculture), the storm impacted as many as 700 to 800 shellfish producers. Previous events suggest that a turnaround for oyster producers will take several months.

“In 1999, a storm occurred in the same region as last month’s. Within two months operations were kick-started, but it took about a year for operations to get back to normal,” CNC President Goulven Brest told SeafoodSource.

A three-pronged recovery plan is in the works. Firstly, the cash injection will allow producers to buy new material to jump-start operations and complement any payments not provided by insurance brokers.

Secondly, funds will be made available to compensate for any loss of product. And, finally, cash from the state package will be used to alleviate any bank charges on current, or new, loans.

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