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High fish prices weigh on U.S. sushi restaurants

October 23, 2007

Sushi has become a popular cuisine in the U.S., but some sushi restaurant owners are hit hard by high costs of fish, according to phone interviews by Suisan Times.

Purchase prices of king of sushi, tuna, have jumped in the past couple of years. The interview revealed that prices of yellowfin or ahi tuna were ranged from $13 to $18 per pound, which was about $10 five years ago.

Megumi Kim, the owner chef at Tomo Sushi in Pleasanton, California says fish prices have climbed significantly in the past year.

"Tuna has risen about 30% from the last year, so has flounder. To cut the rising costs, I can`t help but use talbot instead of flounder. I know some sushi restaurants are using escolar, saying special toro. As the supply of Norwegian mackerel is not steady, I alternatively use Japanese Seki Saba (mackerel). But Americans like fatter fish better, which gives me a headache" she added.

Another sushi restaurant in Pleasanton, Momiji`s Hiroshi Sagara makes a point that traditional Japanese style sushi restaurants are in a worse predicament.
"If you still like to offer sashimi dinner for $20, you have to either lower quality or reduce the portion size. The traditional Japanese sushi restaurants are not profitable. On the other hand, Chinese or Korean owned restaurants make better margins. For example, if you deep-fry regular $4.50 California roll, garnish it with mayonnaise or spicy sauce, you can sell it for $7.50 or $8.00."

Yoshihiro Yamamoto, the owner of a popular downtown Petaluma restaurant, Hiro`s, and a former Heinz Japan CEO, stresses that the Japanese-owned restaurants should also have the brave to try new species to bring prices down and said, "We are planning on adding a new roll with tempura whitefish to our menu. As long as taste is good and satisfactory, I think we should use catfish or tilapia, which is not commonly consumed in Japan."

Furuno`s first half current earnings soared

October 23, 2007

Furuno`s first half sales increased 11% to \47.1 billion compared to the previous year, while current earnings jumped 50% to \4.93 billion. Net earnings also grew 25.6% to \2.69 billion.

The company states that steady sales of marine electronic equipment and foreign currency transaction gains contributed the good result.

Sales of newly introduced scanning fishing sonar for domestic market went well, while I demand of shipbuilding is strong in China and Korea, the company said.

Furuno`s full-business year target sales are \93 billion, an 9.3% increase from last year. Its projected bottom-line profits are \3.65 billion. The interim and annual dividends per share are \6 and \8, respectively.

Furuno is a leading Japanese marine equipment manufacturer that has about 50% share of the global marine radar market.

Yoichi Imamura, president of Daito Gyorui eyes new directions

October 22, 2007

Suisan Times: Congratulations on your 60th anniversary. This is a momentous step for the company. Please let us know your future goals and corporate strategy.

Yoichi Imamura,

Yoichi Imamura, President of Daito Gyorui: Our greatest goal is strengthening wholesale establishment but I could say future business expansion is not easy. So we like to carry out thorough credit management and build a solid business foundation.
Sourcing is becoming thready. Some time ago wholesalers would just wait for products to be shipped in, but this is really a call for us now to look far to secure raw materials. Either from home and abroad, we will positively approach sourcing. It`s worth pursuing business collaborations or capital participations with overseas fishing and aquaculture companies.

ST: Any new sales directions?

YI: We see middle traders as our main clients and this won`t be changed and yet we need to take up challenges with seafood wholesale catering sector.
Consumers are showing more concerns over food safety and interests in domestic seafood products. Therefore, we will promote products with themes, such as seasonal seafood, seafood by regions and compositive presentation with all elements encompassed.
We have limitations of selling whole fish with weaker demand of fish, escalates the level of processed value-added products.

ST: You`re eager to launch into new businesses.

YI: As the core of the business, wholesale establishment, is losing its magnitude, we have been working on creating different pillars. We are trying various things, without dreading failure. I undoubtedly expect the success of newly built fresh seafood processing plant in Toyomi (where it`s near Tsukiji market`s proposed location). The workshop was opened in June. Although we started processing bonito, tuna and salmon, it is still in the preparatory stage and more items will be added in the near future. I am thrilled because the possibilities are endless.

ST: How is the merger of Maruha and Nichiro affecting your business?

YI: We can make the sourcing more stabilized. Moreover, we expect to have more chances of co-developing products using domestic seafood. Obviously, tuna SKUs will be larger because Mauha Nichiro Holdings focus on domestic farmed tuna business.

ST: What about the relocation of Tsukiji market?

YI: I have a mixed feeling of expectation and anxiety. The biggest fear is increased costs arising from the relocation, such as increased royalty on the market and higher equipment costs. We hope we can trim down our operation and make it more efficient. To achieve that, we have to fully utilize the opportunities offered by IT. We, in cooperation with other vendors, are in a process of unifying information and distribution system.

Kyokuyo: Impactful innovation necessary to expand frozen sushi in the E.U

October 19, 2007

Sushi got a lot of attention at Anuga food show.

Kyokuyo and Hokkaido-based Foodreams offered free sampling of frozen sushi and attracted many visitors, reflecting the growing popularity of sushi in the E.U.

But, Makoto Amato, Kyokuyo`s overseas operational director, was not very satisfied and sought to make inroads deep into the E.U.

"When we offer sampling of sushi we get great feedback, which ensures the promising future of the frozen sushi in the E.U., but I do also realize that impactful innovation is necessary to boost sales", he said.

JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) set up Japanese pavilion of 32 stalls from 24 companies. Participants showed mainly sushi related items, such as frozen sushi, rice vinegar, wasabi, soy sauce, signifying a strong will to vulgarize the traditional
Japanese culinary, as well as the volume of seafood products.

Kyokuyo faces downward revision 

October 17, 2007

Kyokuyo`s stag in the first and second quarters forces to change its full business year performance to a lower level. .

Kiyokazu Fukui, Kyokuyo`s CEO said, メWe couldn`t get off to a good start in the first quarter. Unfortunately we struck out in the second quarter, as well. There`s a huge gap between our target and actual showing and we are failing to meet performance target. We are forced to make a downward revision"

He made the comment at a Tokyo Kyokuyo meeting, which drew 100 clients.

The company explained erroneous purchases of Argentina velvet shrimp and salmon, rising costs of raw materials and goods deflation and Chinese food bashing are the main factors of the doldrums.

To recover the loss, Fukui stresses the significance of frozen sushi and global strategy.

"We will go far in global strategy and the development of products of higher values. Frozen sushi business will be the key" he added.

Kyokuyo`s target this fiscal year (started April) is operating profit of \3.8 billion on sales of \161 billion (161,000,000,000).

Chuo Gyorui`s president laments over Japan`s less power to secure seafood

October 16, 2007

Chuo Gyorui`s president, Hiroyasu Itoh, laments over the fact that Japan has less power to secure seafood products in the burgeoning fish market.

"A gap between Japanese and other markets surely widens. The Japanese seafood market has lost its vigor and stream. With prices soaring, we cannot bid on enough fish."

But Itoh still keeps his chin up and believes fish is favored by the Japanese. He says Fish Meister Course he just started drew much attention and there`s rush of applicants and many people are on the waiting list, although fee is costly.

"I still believe the demand for fish is huge. The problem is young people do not have enough knowledge of in-season seafood or preparation of fish. People in the industry only look at the dark side. Rather, we should try to look on the bright side" said Itoh.

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