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Quake Damage to Japan's Seafood Processing Mecca

March 22, 2011

Five Prefectures' Share of Shiokara, Pickled Fish Reaches 40%

The areas obliterated by the quake in Japan encompass four prefectures in the Tohoku region, consisting of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, and another prefecture, Ibaragi. There are a great numbers of seafood processors located on the coastal side of the Pacific, playing a key role as a seafood processing mecca in Japan. Aggregate output share of these five prefectures is quite significant and therefore there is concern over processed marine food supplies from today onward. The following is the total yield of the five prefectures (2009 Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery stats) and their nationwide share.

Share of the leading item in the category of kneaded fish products, kamaboko, by the five prefectures is 17 percent. Miyagi prefecture holds the highest ranking by producing 50,793 tons. In the sector of frozen foods, the prefectures account for 16 percent of marine products, such as fillet, sashimi, and seared items. Additionally, the share of prepared seafood products marks 31 percent, with Iwate and Miyagi leading the rest.

The five prefectures represent 18 percent (40,000 tons) of the category of salted-dried products. In which Ibaragi recorded 32,699 tons, the highest in this bracket. Especially hokke (Arabesque greenling) output is quite high. Fukushima and Ibaragi in particular boast high yield of sand lance, accounting for 49 percent, in the category of boiled-dried fish products.

21 percent is the number of share of salt-preserved products. Miyagi supplies the majority of salt-preserved cod in the five prefectures. The share of the product nationwide is 42 percent. They constitute 26 percent in salmon and trout, with Miyagi as a leading production site.

Aomori and Miyagi represent 40 percent of shiokara products (salted fish viscera) in Japan. Aomori, Iwate, and Miyagi produce 42 percent of pickled marine foods.

The areas covering these prefectures are known for their buoyant fisheries and aquaculture. Consequently, there are numerous fish varieties ranking high in a share chart. Particularly, saury (74 percent), squid varieties (60 percent), bonito varieties (54 percent), and mackerel varieties (42 percent) indicate high numbers, and future supplies of raw materials will be affected.

They produce surimi using various fish varieties excluding pollack, sardine, mackerel, and hokke, which represent 49 percent in Japan.

Main Processed Seafood Product Output (2009)
Total Output and Share of Five Prefectures
(Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaragi)
ItemTotal OutputNationwide Share
Kamaboko Varieties74,80417%
Frozen Foods70,43523%
Marine Foods24,69016%
Cooked Maine Foods45,74531%
Dried Foods2,46314%
Dried Squid2,20029%
Salted-Dried Foods40,89618%
Boiled-Dried Foods6,0809%
Sand Lance1,12649%
Salt-Preserved Foods43,76221%
Pickled Marine Foods27,46442%
Dried, Broiled, and Fried9,96712%
Fresh and Frozen Seafood670,94341%
Tuna Varieties8,77730%
Bonito Varieties8,48154%
Salmon/Trout Varieties32,15523%
Mackerel Varieties138,39442%
Cod Varieties11,67923%
Squid Varieties52,10860%
Other Surimi4,91249%
(Unit: Ton) Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery stats

The original article was published on March 22, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

Nippon Suisan Faces Serious Damage in Onagawa and Kuji

March 16, 2011

The Nippon Suisan Group has placed the highest priority on verifying the safety of its group companies' employees and their family members since the quake hit the Tohoku area. As of 8AM on March 15, acquiring on-site information from the Onagawa area in Miyagi prefecture is extremely difficult even at this time.

Of Nissui's group companies, ones that are assessed to have experienced tremendous damage are the Onagawa Plant in Onagawa (frozen foods and chikuwa), the Onagawa Fish Feed and Oil Plant (oil and fishmeal), and the Hachikan Kuji Plant in Kuji City, Iwate prefecture (canned and frozen foods).

Due to the catastrophe the following facilities are believed to have long term recovery efforts: the Kashima Plant in Kamisu City, Ibaragi prefecture (fine chemicals), the Tsukuba Plant (fine chemicals), the Funabashi Processing Center in Funabashi City, Chiba (seafood processing), Delmar's Funabashi Plant (frozen foods), and Nissui Logistics Sendai Distribution Center in Sendai City, Miyagi prefecture (chilled warehouse).

The original article was published on March 16, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

Japan Quake: Difficulty to Grasp Whole Scope of Damage

March 15, 2011

Due to an earthquake that ravaged Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures, seafood and chilled food companies have been struggling to obtain information on the well-being of local employees and the extent of damage sustained at production sites. Paralyzed information systems have hindered them from comprehending the actual conditions on site. Especially communication infrastructures of the areas that were engulfed by tsunamis have been completely crippled, and moreover off-limits areas are making it even harder for them to grasp what is happening in these areas.

Maruha Nichiro: Main Office Employees Visit Evacuation Centers

The Maruha Nichiro Holdings set up an emergency task force within the company. The Holdings has dispatched some personnel to the hardest hit area of Ishimaki to gather as much information as possible with the goal of confirmation of the safety of its employees and their families as a top priority.

As of March 14th, the Holdings confirmed that employees working in the Tohoku area and its surrounding locations at the time of the quake had all evacuated from the plants. Yet, there is no confirmation of safety for those in Hachinohe City, Aomori, and Ishimaki City, Miyagi.

Affected factories and offices are as follows: Taiyo Reizo in Hachinohe City, Maruha Nichiro Foods Ishimaki Plant and Taiyo A&F Ishimaki Plant in Ishimaki City, Maruha Nichiro Logistics Shiogama Distribution Center in Shiogama City, Maruha Nichiro Foods Sendai Plant in Sendai City, Maruha Nichiro Suisan/ Maruha Nichiro Foods Tohoku Office, Tohoku Service, Maruha Nichiro Foods Utsunomiya Plant in Utsunomiya City, and Higashi Nippon Distribution Center. To the Ishimaki area, which bore the brunt of the disaster, the headquarters sent a few people in an attempt to acquire information from each evacuation site. Additionally, the Group's ship, Dai 75th Hayabusa-Maru, 349 tons, has arrived at the Ishimaki Port with the aim to conduct further investigation and provide support. The confirmation of the safety of employees and their families has been given the upmost priority.

In terms of plant infrastructures, there was reported sustained damage to the group's facilities in Miyagi and its neighboring areas. Investigation is under way. The Holdings said, "Future production and business activities may be affected."

Nippon Suisan's Onagawa Plant Sustains Substantial Damage

Nippon Suisan, based on its risk management policy, has placed a top priority on confirming the safety of its employees and their families. With regard to the Onagawa Plant (137 employees and three visitors from the third party institutions) and the Onagawa Fish Feed and Oil Plant (two people visiting from Tokyo out of 21 employees were confirmed safe), as of March 13th, the company has failed to make contact with the Onagawa area, due partly to restricted areas.

As for the factory facilities, the company said, "We speculate that the tsunamis have dealt a devastating blow to the Onagawa Plant and the Onagawa Fish Feed and Oil Plant. We have already confirmed that our group company's Hachikan Kuji Plant had suffered significant damage." The Kashima Plant that belongs to Fine Chemicals Business seemed to stay intact outside; yet inside damage has been investigated. As for the Hachikan Main Office (Plant), Mogami Foods, plants directly owned by the group and by group companies in the Funabashi area, as the company estimated, "have sustained some damage to the interior facilities and will take some time until rehabilitation."

Kyokuyo Launches Emergency Task Force at its Headquarters

Kyokuyo also launched an emergency task force at its headquarters. Following its emergency measure policy, verifying the safety of its employees and their family members is considered the most important goal of the task force.

As of 9AM on March 14th, no human cost, involving workers of the company and its group companies, was reported; however whereabouts of family members of Kyokuyo Suisan's far seas purse seine crews are not certain, yet; the ship has halted its operation in the Midwestern Pacific and is on its way back home now. According to the company, "it seems that the Shiogama Research Center, the Kyokuyo Foods Main Office Plant (Shiogama City, Miyagi), the Hachinohe Plant (Hachinohe City, Aomori), and the Hitachinaka Plant (Hitachinaka City, Ibaragi) have suffered a great deal; we are currently investigating the damage."

The original article was published on March 15, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

Planned Outage Sparks More Confusion: Consumers Rush to Freezer Isle

March 15, 2011

As the aftermath of the Japan quake and the effect of its subsequent tsunamis are becoming more serious, the chaotic condition of distributing and transporting goods, including chilled foods, is deepening. With concern over unstable supplies of daily necessities as a result of the earthquake, consumers in the Tokyo Metro area rushed to groceries stores over the weekend. Many of them snatched frozen foods, instant foods, canned foods, and retort foods in large quantities. Not only foods, but emergency-ready items such as flash lights and batteries for power outages, and other goods as convenient hot pads, all but disappeared from the shelves.

The scene on a freezer isle was a picture of shoppers hurriedly grabbing not only dinner table ready foods, i.e. rice, udon noodles, gratins, and pizzas, but also frozen vegetables and lunch box items. There is concern about the temperature control of refrigerators in homes during power outages; consumers were exchanging information at the freezer section based on information obtained on the Internet, saying "As long as you limit your access to the fridge during that time, it should be OK for 3 to 4 hours."

Furthermore, a planned outage has negatively affected chilled foods stakeholders, hampering their transportation. Especially, in the Tokyo Metro area, taking trains is not as convenient as it was prior to the quake; exhibitions and meetings have been nixed one after the other scheduled for the 14th of March and on.

Now that there is limited, controlled supply of fuel at gas stations, it will adversely impact commercial vehicles of chilled foods salespeople and food distributions.

What is worse, with food distribution networks being disrupted, stagnant deliveries of raw materials for chilled foods, for example vegetable, fish, and meat, will have an effect on the costs of new products.

This is not the reality that only the chilled food industry has to face; but it will require a significant amount of time for the tremors and tsunamis to settle and for Japan's economy and people's daily life to regain its normalcy.

Picture 1: Empty store shelves

The original article was published on March 15, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

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