Canberrans have been urged to get their orders in early, with oysters expected to be in short supply this Christmas.
Oyster production has been halted at one of Australia's largest suppliers in South Australia, and estuaries have been shut along the South Coast, leaving supplies of the nation's favourite mollusk stretched.
Heavy rainfall throughout November has closed waterways along the coast, and freshwater run-off can deteriorate the quality of oysters and introduce potentially harmful bacteria.
Fishco managing director John Fragopoulos said he was "struggling" to find quality oysters, and he feared there may not be enough on hand this Christmas. For hungry customers, the situation simply "depends on the weather", he said.
The Fyshwick-based market sold between 7000 and 8000 oysters over the festive season last year. The Sydney rock oyster and the Pacific oyster grown along the South Coast were in particular demand.
Although the gregarious proprietor has ordered thousands of oysters, he insists they will be sent back to suppliers if not of the best quality.
Mr Fragopoulos said a good oyster was plump and cream-coloured with minimal black or dark edging.
Batemans Bay oyster farmer Jade Norris was hopeful Christmas would be business as usual.
While sales were down for the Oyster Shed during the COVID-19 lockdown, Ms Norris expects a busy season if the rain holds off.
"We don't want rain over Christmastime," she said.
"We rely on tourism, and last year was the craziest Christmas we've had and the first time we've ever had to turn people away.
"If the weather is good to us, we are expecting [sales] to go ballistic."
Sally Mclean, who runs Jim Wild's Oysters at Greenwell Point, has her fingers crossed in hope "mother nature stops the rain".
The oyster farmer said the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven rivers had been closed for the past two weeks, meaning they could continue to look after the oysters but they were not suitable for sale.
Ms Mclean explained oysters were filter feeders and absorbed any contamination in the water. The estuary will only reopen when the rain stops and a series of test results get the all clear from the NSW Food Authority.
"We are hoping we will have enough supply for Christmas," she said.
"It's a bit of a terrible thing that's happening."
Ms Mclean said the past two years had been difficult as "horrific" bushfires, floods and COVID-19 ravaged the industry.
In 2019, floods washed ash, debris and burnt material directly into rivers, decimating oyster crops along the coast.
"Once the rain came, it was a disaster zone in the river," Ms Mclean said.
For now all the farmer can do is "hope and pray we don't get too much rain".
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