December 7, 2010


Japan's seafood sector seeks to furnish Asian fish demand



Japanese seafood firms and localities will expand exports to other parts of Asia, where fish is gaining popularity, to offset the lowering local consumption.


Eleven seafood processors in the Hokkaido city of Nemuro will start shipping frozen saury to Vietnam next year. The shipments are expected to reach 1,200 tonnes a year and include mainly small saury used domestically in canned food or as feed for raising fish.


In Vietnam, consumption of low-priced Japanese-produced frozen fish, such as mackerel, is rising. Exports of saury to that country had stood at about 100 tonnes a year until 2007. But the figure surged to 4,808 tonnes in 2008 and has continued to rise, reaching 5,257 tonnes in 2009 although the pace of growth slowed. The frozen saury is consumed mainly by grilling or stewing, according to officials involved in negotiations with local governments and importers in Vietnam.


Even though 2010 has been a lean year, the Japanese saury industry had bountiful catches in recent years and as a result wholesale prices of the fish have fallen. Nemuro's fisheries cooperative expects exports to buttress domestic prices of saury.


Ehime Prefecture will market farmed fish like yellowtail and sea bream to China. The prefectural government launched a project organisation this June in cooperation with local fish farming businesses to promote exports. The entity will pitch the quality and taste of Ehime fish.


Wholesale prices of farmed fish are slumping because of sluggish domestic consumption. In addition, the cost to raise fish is climbing due to higher feed prices.


"It's necessary for us to sell products overseas, not just in Japan," says an Ehime fishery official.


Tsukiji Uoichiba Co. plans to double exports of processed seafood products in 2011 from this year to meet rising demand for dried seafood and other items in China and other parts of Asia.


Seafood exports had been expanding each year since 2000 due partly to an overseas sushi boom, but fell in 2008, when the financial crisis erupted. But exports jumped 22% on the year to 440,000 tonnes in the January-October period and are on pace to exceed last year's tally.