Oyster prices surge - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Oyster prices surge

Fresh out of Apalachicola Bay and ready for shucking, oysters are a hot menu item at Austin's Firegrill and Oyster Bar in Albany.

But just getting them from the Gulf to your plate is proving costly.

"The prices have gone up by 33% and supplies are tight," said owner Austin Newman.

He says he won't get his oysters from anywhere but Apalachicola Bay where the oyster beds aren't producing and the industry is struggling.

This week Florida Governor Rick Scott traveled to Franklin County where he met with residents and oystermen desperate for solutions.

Some say part of the problem has to do with restrictions on freshwater flow from Georgia to Apalachicola necessary for the oysters to survive.

Others still blame the Gulf oil spill which prompted a price hike just 2 years ago.

"Prices were limited and prices were high. It's a simple supply and demand theory for sure," said Newman.

While other issues such as drought could be to blame, the problem has been detrimental to those who make their livings in the oyster industry.

More than 2 million pounds of oyster came out of Apalachicola Bay last year, but officials estimate this year's numbers won't be anywhere close.

Newman says he went from paying $28 dollars a bushel to $44, but his suppliers aren't too concerned about a major shortage, just yet.

"We haven't had a supply problem and there's not one in the future. But the price is definitely up and we're still offering the same prices but we're taking a hit on our profit side," he said.

For now Austin's is serving the oysters up raw and grilled and it's a popular time for the food.

But the future of the oyster industry in the Gulf remains in question with no clear solution on how it can be fixed.

Scott has called upon the Army Corps of Engineers to alleviate the restrictions on freshwater flow from Georgia into Florida.

More than 2,500 jobs are dependent on the oyster industry  in Franklin County, Florida alone.

Copyright 2012 WALB.  All rights reserved. 

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