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February Seafood Imports Show 13% Dip to 160,000 Tons

March 31, 2011

According to (preliminary) trade statistics released by the Ministry of Finance on March 30, the aggregate seafood imports for February, which include fishmeal, dipped 12.7 percent to 160,000 tons. Bonito, bigeye tuna, flounder varieties, mackerel, prepared squid products, and roasted eel exhibited noticeable tumbles. Thanks to an upswing of the average unit price by 14.9 percent, the total value managed to stay at \92 billion, almost unchanged from the previous year. Salmon, trout, bluefin tuna, and horse mackerel jumped.

In the category of tuna, bigeye and yellowfin tunas contracted by 28.1 percent and 9.2 percent respectively. Bluefin contrarily amounted to 3,000 tons, a three-fold increase from the prior year.

Flounder varieties (2,900 tons), mackerel (1,600 tons), and prepared squid all dropped by 30 percent. Roasted eel, mostly from China, was slashed in half. Prepared goods, such as squid and eel, grew 20 to 30 percent in unit price.

Chilean Coho Salmon Hike 20% to 18,000 Tons

Salmon and trout as a whole spiked 14.9 percent to 27, 600 tons. Out of which Chilean coho salmon increased 20 percent, totaling 18,000 tons. Shrimp were 12,900 tons, down 1.9 percent. Main producing countries of Thailand (2,400 tons down 20 percent), Vietnam (2,000 tons down 12 percent), China (930 tons down 28 percent) tumbled all across the board. Indonesia and India remained unchanged at 2,100 tons and 1,400 tons respectively. Fishmeal displayed an outstanding dip of 30.7 percent to 12,800 tons.

The original article was published on March 31, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

Maruha Nichiro Foods: Six Deaths Confirmed at Ishimaki Plant

March 30, 2011

The Maruha Nichiro Holdings made an announcement on March 28 as to damage sustained by a recent earthquake. "Out of 394 employees of the Maruha Nichiro Foods Ishimaki Plant, which include contract, part-time, and temp workers, the deaths of six people were confirmed. The safety of two workers is still unknown." Employees belonging to other office locations are all safe. The Holdings set up an emergency task force in the wake of the quake and dispatched personnel to gather information on well-being of onsite employees. Maruha Nichiro Foods established onsite task forces in Ishimaki City and Sendai city for acquiring further information.

The following refers to damage sustained (there were limited destructions to factories and offices other than mentioned below. They are now ready to resume operations):

[Aomori Prefecutre]
Taiyo Reizo (processed seafood): flooded manufacturing facilities under investigation

[Miyagi Prefecture]
Maruha Nichiro Foods, Ishimaki Plant (frozen foods): significant damage to the building and production facilities under investigation; Taiyo A&F, Ishimaki Plant (condiments): significant damage to the building and production facilities under investigation; Maruha Nichiro Logistics, Kanto Branch Shiogama Distribution Center (warehouse/logistics): partially damaged machinery under reconstruction; Maruha Nichiro Foods, Sendai Plant (FD foods, frozen foods, and kneaded fish products): under investigation; Maruha Nichiro Foods, Tohoku Branch Office (sales hub): destructions to the office building and resumed operations at a temporary office from March 22; Tohoku Service (warehouse and transportation): damaged warehouse and partially resumed operation

[Tochigi Prefecture]
Maruha Nichiro Foods, Foods and Fine Chemicals Utsunomiya Plant (foods and fine chemicals): collapsed ceiling and wall under reconstruction

The original article was published on March 30, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

Kneaded Fish Producers in Niigata Faces Packaging Material Shortages
Despite Flood of Orders

March 28, 2011

As a repercussion of the earthquake that ravaged the Tohoku region of Japan, kneaded fish manufactures in Niigata prefecture have been overwhelmed by scores of orders; however, this unexpected demand increase has generated shortages of packaging materials in particular. There are cases where some companies are forced to pony up for more expensive materials due to higher rates for new accounts.

Niigata prefecture luckily did not suffer the quake and it is also fitted with a large scale LNG thermal power plant at the Niigata Higashi Port, guaranteeing an ample supply of electricity. With secured raw materials, the prefecture continuously manages to supply products to the Kanto and Kansai regions. With its advantageous distance to Tohoku, the prefecture has been proactively responding to demand from the quake-obliterated areas.

One hindrance is access to the disaster areas; even though freeways have been all closed, companies in Niigata prefecture have been using local roads for food delivery, which was established in the wake of the quake and tsunami. The prefecture resultantly has played a responsible role as a food supplier.

Some manufactures in not only Niigata but the Kansai area have ramped up production by 20 to 30 percent due to abruptly increasing orders.

Plenty of frozen surimi, a chief raw material, has been stocked up; nevertheless there are serious shortages of packaging materials. There are a concentrated number of wrapping material makers in eastern Japan, Fukushima prefecture in particular. Many of them have sustained damage and some just cannot ship out stocks due to distorted warehouse racks. With new accounts facing a seller's market, packaging materials are pulled out from the distribution phase for the sake of kneaded fish producers, leading to skyrocketing prices of packaging materials.

Suffered Profits Despite High Demand Due to Spike in Material Costs

Kneaded fish product manufactures say, "Just because packaging material costs are running sky-high, we cannot get end product prices readjusted, when dealing with mass outlet retailers. Although there is increasing demand and production, we are coming up against cost hikes. With bearing in mind our role as a supplier for those evacuees and other consumers, we are doing our best."

The original article was published on March 28, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

40% of Food Industry Shows Interest in Exports and Overseas Markets

March 25, 2011

The Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food Business Unit of the Japan Finance Corporation conducted a food industry trend study (for the latter half of 2010). The study indicates that more than 40 percent of the food industry exhibits interest in exporting and overseas businesses.

18 percent indicate that "they have already been working on it"; 6.8 percent have been "contemplating or planning it"; and 17.9 percent do "not give it much consideration, but have interest in it."

Reasons expressed by "those that are already undertaking exporting and business operations outside of Japan" or "those that are considering or planning them," point to "expanded overseas markets and sales channels" (77 percent), "inquires from trading companies and/or foreign companies" (31.7 percent), and "company globalization" (16.3 percent).

Issues of "Export Formalities" and "Risks in Receivables Collection"

Issues and difficulties ranked high are "securing sales destinations and distribution channels," "cumbersome export formalities," and "risks in collection of receivables."

62.3 percent of food companies that have already engaged in exports and overseas businesses expressed intent of "keeping working at it."

There are discrepancies in preferred business methods and forms depending on industries: an overwhelming 71.4 percent of institutions in the manufacturing industry prefer "operations by way of trading company." In the wholesaling sector 55.1 percent also like "the via-trading company" method and 49.4 percent "direct exporting". In retailing 38.9 percent opt for "investment in and partnership with foreign companies"; 33.3 percent want "direct exports"; and 27.8 percent choose "businesses via trading company." In the foodservice sector, including restaurants, 75 percent of establishments prefer to "launch overseas companies and/or retailers."

The study took place around the time of January 1, 2011. Questionnaires were mailed out to 6,927 food-related business institutions, consisting of manufactures, wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants. Answers were collected via snail mail or fax. Valid responses came from 2,625 entities.

The original article was published on March 25, 2011 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka

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