Shrimp on display in Tokyo

Published on
August 6, 2011

Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Chris Loew attended last month’s Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo. 

Shrimp was among the most prominent items displayed at the 13th Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo, held from July 27 to 29 at Tokyo Big Sight. Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian and Chinese booths all featured prawns, with Indonesia the only major producer absent. Yet, each country took a different competitive strategy.

Murkhalis Mokhter, director of integrated Maylasian aquaculture company Amban Wibawa Sdn Bhd., said that while his company has long been a leading tilapia exporter, the company’s vannamei shrimp farm is new. The production sites are located far from other operations to avoid the spread of diseases.

While he is promoting in Japan and elsewhere, exports are strongest to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries, due to the company’s Halal certification. Unlike Jewish rules for kosher foods, crustaceans are acceptable in Islam. Though there are no special slaughtering requirements as for beef, producers must take care that no pork offal is used as a feed ingredient.

Vietnamese shrimp exporter Caminex has suffered along with others in the country from a double-whammy of chemical residue violations and disease. Japan increased the sampling rate to 100 percent for the herbicide trifluralin last November and for bactericidal agent enrofloxacin in June after detecting excessive residues in Vietnamese shrimp.

In the spring, a deadly outbreak of microsporidiosis wiped out approximately 30 percent of annual production. A manager at the company’s booth said that many farmers restocked as late as July, which means newly harvested product may not be available until October, with larger sizes in September or November: “The volume of processed product for Japan should be sufficient for the New Year, but may not be for raw product,” said the manager.

Caminex was promoting black tigers with panko and tempura breading, and butterflied for sushi. The rep said, “We cannot compete with India and Indonesia for the raw product. For headless black tigers, they can produce cheaper. Thailand can also further process, but they sell vannamei. We can do further processed black tiger.” The company also exhibited at the International Boston Seafood Show in March. “We have many customers in the U.S. Comparing the two, the U.S. is bigger, but processed demand is growing faster in Japan,” she said.

Panita Boonyanandha of the Thai Frozen Foods Association said Thai shrimp production is about 90 percent vannamei because black tigers are more difficult to raise. They displayed just one breaded product: tail-on vannamei. She said they offer fewer processed products than Vietnam because there are not as many processing facilities set up for it. But she expects more emphasis on processed in the future: “We can’t compete with China on raw product, so we will go toward processed. There is more profit in value-added.”

The Indian booth offered both black tigers and vannamei raw but were emphasizing large-sized vannamei, such as 16/20s and 21/30s.

The Chinese exhibitors had a variety of shrimp products, along with a variety of seafood items, but did not appear to have a strong focus on shrimp. While China is emerging as a major vannamei producer, it also consumes much of its own production. According to the latest forecast by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, in the first quarter of 2011, exporters in China reduced the export ratio to focus more on the local market.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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