Connecting with European Shellfish Buyers – Trade Mission Update

Food Export-Northeast organized and hosted a first-time ever shellfish-focused trade mission to Yerseke (The Netherlands) and Paris (France) in late September.

Now that shellfish trade is reopened between the US and EU after being halted more than a decade ago, Food Export-Northeast organized and hosted a first-time ever shellfish-focused trade mission to Yerseke (The Netherlands) and Paris (France) in late September. At this time, Massachusetts and Washington are the only two states allowed to export oysters to Europe. The shellfish trade mission provided an opportunity for Northeast U.S. seafood producers to connect in person with EU buyers, sample their products and learn about the EU market.

“The EU Focused Trade Mission was a fantastic opportunity for Massachusetts shellfish dealers to explore a new market that appears to offer good potential,” said Bonita Oehlke, Foreign Trade Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and state representative to Food Export USA-Northeast. “The European shellfish trade were enthusiastic about the quality and variety of the oysters and clams they sampled. They were also impressed with the professionalism and expertise of the US shellfish growers and their ability to produce highly marketable products that could be appealing to European consumers.”

So, why these two locations?

Yerseke, situated in the southwest province of The Netherlands known as Zeeland, has a considerable history of growing mussels and oysters. The companies situated there specialize in shellfish aquaculture, the importation of shellfish and crustaceans, and managing a vast European distribution network that quickly moves fresh seafood throughout Europe. Over 70% of Yerseke’s annual shellfish harvest is distributed throughout Belgium, France, and Germany. Dutch traders know the European shellfish business like few others. (The Netherlands and Spain are presently the only two EU countries that can export shellfish to the USA.)

France is famous for its love of seafood – particularly oysters – and oyster bars are plentiful in every major French city. Paris-based seafood importers and wholesalers specialize in offering freshness and variety daily to restaurants and retail shops throughout the country. As Europe’s leading oyster consumer, the French market may provide good market development opportunities to US shellfish dealers.


US Delegation to the Shellfish-Focused Trade Mission at the Hotel de Talleyrand in Paris, France    Photo credit: Osmany Tavares

Shellfish Mission Activities – Connecting Directly with Buyers

Five (5) Massachusetts oyster suppliers traveled to Europe to participate in the mission. Northeast shellfish trade mission participants had the opportunity to apply for cost-share funding available through Food Export-Northeast’s Branded Program which covers 50% of international marketing expenses like travel, sample product shipping and more. Below are highlights from the four-day event.

  • More than 50 one-on-one meetings with both Dutch and French buyers.
  • Trade receptions in each location with oyster product sampling attended by journalists, seafood buyers, wholesalers and importers, fishmongers, local chefs, shellfish organizations, and FAS representatives.
  • Market profile presentations by the USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Commerce/NOAA, and local shellfish industry experts.
  • A featured speaker was Chris Schillaci, NOAA’s Aquaculture Coordinator in the Greater Atlantic Region, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Narragansett, Rhode Island. He provided an overview of Northeast US oyster farming history, outlined the differences between Virginica and Gigas species oysters and detailed US shellfish food safety protocols.
  • Tours of Dutch oyster farm tours including De Meulemeester, Oesterij, and the Roem van Yerseke (hatchery)
  • A guided tour of Rungis wholesale seafood market, which sells nearly 97,000 tons of fish and crustaceans every year. The Rungis market’s seafood sector is one of the largest ports in France in terms of volume.
  • Tours to see how shellfish is marketed in the country.

While Massachusetts is currently the only state permitted in the Northeast region to export shellfish to the EU, the hope is that the market will expand import allowances to other states soon.

About Food Export USA – Northeast 

With its extensive programs and educational offerings, Food Export USA–Northeast (Food Export–Northeast) is recognized as the preeminent expert and cost-effective resource for Northeast seafood and agricultural suppliers looking to sell their products overseas. Founded in 1973, Food Export–Northeast is a non-profit organization that works collaboratively with its 10 member states’ agricultural promotion agencies from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, to facilitate trade between suppliers and worldwide importers and to promote the export of food, agricultural and seafood products from those states. Since its founding, the organization has helped Northeast seafood suppliers gain access to a broad range of export markets, supported overseas in-market educational and promotional programs, and offers emerging suppliers access to funds to help grow their export business. The organization is funded through the Market Access Program (MAP), administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Learn more about us and what we do for the Northeast seafood industry here.  Contact us.