Oyster sales off to strong season start

A revolving door may well have benefited a local factory as punters lined up to get their hands on fresh Bluff oysters the day after the season commenced.

A stream of customers from near and far gave the Barnes Wild Bluff Oysters factory door a workout, buying a dozen of first-grade oysters for $30, or two dozen of second-grade oysters for $40.

Invercargill woman Tracy Neilson stopped off at the factory to pick up a few dozen before flying up to the North Island later yesterday, where she would be sharing the oysters with her sister in Levin.

"They’re very popular, and we’re big oyster lovers."

Jane Ainsworth was visiting Invercargill from Australia while on a tour, and said her guide mentioned the delicacy as a must-try.

"I heard they were the best in New Zealand, so think I’ll try and have a taste."

Colac Bay Tavern owner Warren Bevin said they hoped to purchase as many as they were allowed, as customers had long been waiting for the sought-after product.

The price had gone up a wee bit since last year, but fair’s fair as so had everything else, he said.

"It’s a delicacy, so people pay for it."

Inside the factory, oyster shuckers were hard at work getting the the seafood prepared for the plate.

Oyster boats returned to South Port about noon on Wednesday, singing the praises of the quality of the shellfish in comparison with the previous season.

Barnes Oysters manager Graeme Wright said the factory expected to process about 3500 dozen (42,000) of the delicacy on its first day of the season.

"We’ve been reasonably busy ... The customers will be happy, it’s been flat out all morning."

As for the price point of the delicacy, the oysters had always been a premium product and they tried to keep the quality as high as they could, he said.

"It’s a really expensive fishery to operate in, and it’s a boutique fishery ... In my time here, we’ve always had a really strong demand."

Earlier this week, people from all over the country had been calling and knocking on their door asking about the oysters, he said.

"People love it — they are very passionate," he said.