High yen responsible for declining Japanese seafood exports

Published on
February 1, 2009

The Japanese yen has appreciated approximately 24 percent against the U.S. dollar since mid-August 2008, and Japanese seafood exports are diminishing as a result.

The dollar has sunk from JPY 110.49 on 15 August to JPY 89.14 on 30 January. The yen is being driven up by foreign exchange dealers turning to it as a low-risk currency amid the economic meltdown in the United States, as Japanese banks were relatively unharmed by the subprime mortgage debacle.

Japanese Customs records showed that October 2008 exports of dressed and frozen Japanese chum salmon (akizake), mostly to China, were down 48 percent on a smaller catch and higher yen. By November, the price was 3.7 percent higher, with year-on-year volume down 19.8 percent.

November 2008 exports of Japanese mackerel (saba) were down 17.2 percent.

The Japanese fisheries industry newspaper Minato Shimbun reported that volume of frozen scallop (hotate) sold mostly to the United States had increased by 59 percent from January to October 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, but sales abruptly stopped after the U.S. financial crisis hit. Likewise, dried shellfish sales to Hong Kong have plummeted due to the poor economy there and the high yen.

The term being used in the Japanese industry is “kyu-braki,” or sudden braking. The Japan Fisheries Agency reported that November 2008 seafood exports were down 17.2 percent in volume and 35.5 percent in yen value year-on-year.

While frozen Pacific saury (sanma) exports were up slightly in November 2008 from the same month in 2007, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that this was due to an increase of 60,000 metric tons in the 2008 fishing quota, to 455,000 metric tons. However, the sharp increase in the value of the yen in late September occurred just as the saury fishery peaked. Foreign countries are now cutting saury imports due to the strong yen and global economic slowdown, the newspaper reported

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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