The Knysna Oyster Company: from Nelson Mandela Bay to the world

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

By More Matshediso

The Knysna Oyster Company, which farms oysters at Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape and sells them to both the South African and international markets, is the oldest oyster-producing company in South Africa.

Established in 1949, the company previously farmed oysters in Knysna in the Western Cape, hence its brand name.

Recently, SAnews joined Proudly South African and Comair Limited on a media tour to the Eastern Cape to profile some of the local businesses that are creating jobs for residents and contributing to the country’s economic growth.

The Knysna Oyster Company is a Proudly SA member which employs 24 permanent workers and 16 casual workers.

“We are in the process of recruiting about 10 more employees in the next six months,” said the Sales and Marketing Manager of the company, John Rice.

He said the company purchases seed oysters from hatcheries in Namibia, who produces them from breeding the adults.

“We cultivate the pacific oysters which are also known as crassostrea gigas by grading and washing them every 45 to 60 days and return them to the sea. The oysters take between six and nine months to reach market size,” said Rice.

He said the company currently produces over two million oysters per year.

“We generally process about 50 to 100 000 oysters per day. We currently sell [them] to the South African market, mainly into the main hubs of Johannesburg and Cape Town. We also have a portion that we export to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Mauritius and Ghana,” he added. 

Rrunning this type of business is not always easy as the company was in the previous years badly affected by water pollution.

“We worked very hard with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to minimise the challenge. We are very strict in our testing and control process that we use to monitor the oysters,” he said.

Another challenge has been environmental as the company operates from an exposed bay, which can easily be affected by rough seas.

Rice said oysters are becoming a lot more accessible and popular across various cultures in the South African market.

Oysters used to be seen as a luxury product and were almost exclusive to people of certain status in society, but that is no longer the case.

“You can now buy them from retailers and online stores. On top of that, there are now more oyster festivals which makes the product more accessible to the general public. I do not think it is an exclusive product anymore and it should not be,” he said.

Some of the health benefits brought by eating oysters include boosting the immune system, helping prevent cardiovascular diseases, they are beneficial for healing wounds, promote blood circulation and they increase bone mineral density, among other things. –