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Pelagic Shrimp Fishery Receives Eco-Label Certification

May 26, 2009

Marine Eco-Label Japan (MEL Japan) approved, on May 21, fishery certifications for 1) Pelagic Shrimp Two Boat Seine Fishery (Shizuoka Pref.) and 2) Jyusanko Fresh Water Clam Fishery (Aomori Pref.) submitted by the Japan Fisheries Resource Conservation Association.

Each fishery also received a chain of custody certification based on a reason that the producers are engaging in the distribution process. Products by these two fisheries will be distributed as eco-label products at direct sales shops or via catalog sales.

The marine eco-label system was designed to encourage and promote fisheries friendly to both marine resources and the oceans, by certifying fisheries that aggressively engage in the conservation of resources and ecology, and by assigning marine eco-labels to certified products. The MEL Japan's office is located inside of the Japan Fisheries Association.

The original article was published on May 26, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Tuna Wholesalers Torn Apart Between Producers and Consumers

May 25, 2009

According to some tuna wholesalers, since the financial crisis, there has been a trend seen at seafood sections of volume retailers, that an item higher than \198 per 100g moves stagnantly; any tuna product exceeding this price line is continuously transacted as a "promoting product," ending in partial unprofitable sales on the wholesalers' side.

Until recently, fatty tuna products were in demand as an article of taste, and red tuna meat was in demand by consumers as daily foodstuff. However, after the global financial meltdown last autumn, there was a drastic shift in consumers' buying habits and will, leading to slumping sales of fatty tuna products and resultant lower prices.

In contrast, frozen red tuna meat products sold to mass retailers through tuna wholesalers, still remains a perennial favorite among consumers; and yet, a border of \198 per 100g exhibits a clear dividing line between items faring well and those faring poorly. One of the stakeholders in the tuna wholesaling sector made the following comments:

"Our business obviously cannot continue to exist, if fishermen as a supplier fail to reproduce. Moreover, if consumers stop purchasing tuna products, then we cannot stay in business. At this moment, a price setting of \198 per 100g is throwing a huge problem to us, as a wholesaler standing between producers and consumers."

"Before, regardless of the price setting of \198, tuna was well consumed as an article of taste or daily foodstuff; however, today, tuna is holding an unclear status- it is not quite a luxury item or everyday foodstuff, causing us a headache. Currently, in order to meet this price setting, we are reducing expenses for processing plants and refrigerated warehouses, so that we can be prepared to conduct partially unprofitable sales by considering it as so-called "promoting products."

"At any rate, all we can hope for is that the recovery of the Japanese economy and consumers' buying will for tuna products will take place, and that items costing more than \198 per 100g will constantly move. Whether we continue to provide corresponding tuna products by paying close attention to the condition of mass retailers' fish sections; it is a tough call for Japan's tuna industry, which has maintained an annual transaction amount of 30 tons, how we will fend off the influence of the recession."

The original article was published on May 25, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

European Seafood Observation Tour Report, Part 3

May 25, 2009

Making the best of a layover in London for a flight to Brussels from Narita, we listened in on a lecture about the current status of a Japanese cuisine boom in Europe by Takashi Fujita, President of Japan Fooding.

After spending more than four decades in Europe, Mr. Fujita now supports Japanese companies for their business development with the aim of familiarizing Japanese cuisine to the European consumer market. He joined Ezaki Gulico in 1973. After handling marketing at the advertising department, he became an expatriate employee in France, who built his career in the fields of management, marketing, accounting, general affairs, human resources, legal affairs, production, survey research, and RD. The following is a summary of his lecture:

Not only in Europe, but also in other regions where their own distinctive food cultures are deeply rooted, it is a difficult task to make consumer markets become familiar with Japanese cuisine. Japanese automobiles and electronics have already made inroads into the international business world, and have established their firm positions as brand names.In comparison, the globalization of the food industry is lagging behind, because it has relied on domestic demand. Even if as Japanese brands claim originality and authenticity as uniquely Japanese food products, such similar products or knock-off versions, as Thailand's rice crackers and Chinese green tea, threaten to monopolize the international market; Japanese brands must establish their brand names in these new markets if they wish to maintain competitive. When the Japanese market is having a tough time expanding in the face of dwindling birthrate and a growing aging population, Europe, where more than 450 million people live, as such is, of course, perceived as an attractive market.

"Nanchatte Sushi" Spreading Around Europe

A simple instance of globally spreading Japanese cuisine is "Sushi." If we set the number of restaurants run by Japanese in Europe, which provide the same quality sushi as those in Japan, at 100, then, the number of Vietnamese or Chinese owned sushi restaurants which provide sushi-like products, so called "Nanchatte Sushi," without hiring skillful, well-trained sushi chefs, will amount to 1,500 restaurants.

This type of "SUSHI" needs to be considered something different than sushi Japanese people understand. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan instituted a certification system for Japanese restaurants.

Popular fish varieties among Europeans at these "SUSHI" restaurants are salmon, tuna, and shrimp. In Russia, more specifically, Moscow, salmon is well accepted, but unagi and tuna top the ranking.

Commercial frozen sushi manufactured by a Kyokuyo's subsidiary, K&U Enterprise, is being sold in Europe, as well. This sushi product needs to be heated up in the microwave for a minute and half. A pack of three pieces of shrimp, two pieces of salmon, and five sushi rolls is priced at £3.99.

Compared with the Japanese, who have a particular palate, it seems that people in England do not have as discriminating a taste as Japanese people do. For that reason alone, it may be easier to run a successful business. Just because Japanese cuisine is more lucrative than that of Chinese, there are many restaurants that convert to Japanese restaurants; however, the reality is an unending stream of food poisoning.

Therefore, it is a top priority to offer a lecture on Japanese cuisine. By actually showing examples of how to make sushi right in front of them, we can help them learn the skills. It is essential to have them practice the basic step of "washing hands."

Like of Quickly Consumable Cooked Food Products

The European food market displays interests in green tea, miso (fermented soybean paste), sake, shochu (distilled alcohol), and Japanese pastries. These items hold potential business opportunities. We hope to help Japanese food manufacturers and business stakeholders to be key players of "global boom of Japanese cuisine. Additionally, we aim to increase consumer interest in Japanese cuisine outside of sushi.

The followings are needs and trends, and consumer characters in Europe:

1) Healthy or allergy-free; 2) convenience of foods; 3) less acuity towards quality and price; 4) a tendency to prefer extreme sweetness or saltiness; 5) existing class systems which differentiate purchasing channels and product preferences; 6) low interest in nutrition; 7) dislike of microwaves, but love for ready-meals.

The original article was published on May 25, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

TAC of Mackerel Varieties Set at 466,000 Tons

May 22, 2009

The Fisheries Agency, in response to a report by a resources management subcommittee meeting of the Fisheries Policy Council, revised the 2008 TAC quotas and set the TACs for the year of 2009.

For the common mackerel and spotted mackerel TACs, the 2008 quotas assigned to gubernatorial management (Miyazaki Pref.) were modified from the existing number of 13,000 tons to 19,000 tons, based on the condition of the fishing ground formation. For the year of 2009, the total TAC of mackerel varieties will be 466,000 tons (excluding extra quotas for adjustment). A total quantity for 2008, including the extra quota, came to 765,000 tons.

As for snow crab, its TAC for 2009 was set at 6,423 tons, as opposed to 7,793 tons a year earlier.

The original article was published on May 22, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Nippon Suisan's Transaction Quantity and Value of Previous Year: Surimi Unit Price Climbs 52%

May 21, 2009

Nippon Suisan, as a single entity, announced that the total transaction quantity of marine products for the previous fiscal term ended March 2009 was 139,483 tons, a decline of 11,929 tons or 7.9 percentage points in comparison with the last year's result. A drastic increase in surimi prices contributed to a 5.2 percent rise in the average price. Nonetheless, a decline in the total transaction quantity caused a loss of \3 billion in a total sales value.

Though the transaction amount of surimi dropped 6,569 tons to 27,360 tons, a profit of \2.4 billion was generated due to a 52 percent jump in its unit price to \477, compared with a year past. As for salmon, trout, shrimp, and cod roe, their declined transaction quantities led to reduced sales.

There was an increase of 177 tons in the amount of crab and a rise in its unit price led to a \500 million growth in profit.

(Note: quantity: tons, value: in million yen, unit price: in yen)
 Fiscal Year Ended March 2009Fiscal Year Ended March 2008Year to Year Comparison
QuantityValueUnit PriceQuantityValueUnit PriceQuantityValueUnit Price
Cod Roe5,7318,9001,5536,96110,3641,48982.3%85.9%104.3%

The original article was published on May 21, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

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