Japan’s fish exports rebounding from a slow 2020

Published on
December 1, 2021
Japan’s seafood exports rose by 9.4 percent in October 2021 year-over-year, while its seafood imports were up by 26.7 percent, resulting in a small trade deficit.

Japan’s seafood exports rose by 9.4 percent in October 2021 year-over-year, while its seafood imports were up by 26.7 percent, resulting in a small trade deficit.

Japan’s government announced on Wednesday, 1 December the country is now on track to reach its target of JPY 1 trillion (USD 8.9 billion, EUR 7.8 billion) in total food exports in 2021, according to The Japan Times, including JPY 8.4 billion (USD 74.4 million, EUR 65.8 million) in scallop shipments. The government has a goal of attaining JPY 5 trillion (USD 44.3 billion, EUR 39.2 billion) in food exports by 2030.

Japan’s Ministry of Finance released provisional trade statistics for October 2021 on 19 November, though detailed trade information is available only through September. In that month, exports of fish and fish preparations totaled approximately JPY 21.9 billion (USD 192.6 million, EUR 170.7 million), up 35 percent year-over-year., while Japan’s seafood imports were JPY 118.2 billion (USD 1.1 billion, EUR 919.5 million), up 15 percent from September 2020.

Japan’s October seafood imports totaled JPY 132 billion (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1 billion) up around 10 percent from the same month in 2020.

Japan’s seafood imports usually see two peaks, as inventories build in anticipation of the Golden Week holiday in May and the Oshogatsu (New Year) holiday, and decline from June and January. Japan appears to have returned to normal import levels following suppressed imports in 2020 due to transportation and production problems related to COVID-19.

Japan’s main export products are scallops, yellowtail, processed sea cucumber, mackerel, and tuna.

Fresh scallop exports in September totaled 82.5 metric tons (MT), valued at JPY 36.5 million (USD 320,000, EUR 284,000), almost all going to China, a positive sign for the sector given there were zero scallop exports in September 2020. Frozen scallop exports – sent to the United States, Taiwan, and Hong Kong – totaled 39.1 MT, valued at JPY 139.3 million (USD 1.2 million, EUR 1 million). The USA, Taiwan and Hong Kong were the main destinations. The volume increased by a third from a year earlier, while the value was 75 percent higher.

Frozen fillets of yellowtail, Japan’s biggest farmed finfish export, totaled 601.8 MT, valued at JPY 988.5 million (USD 8.6 million, EUR 9.6 million), with the U.S. taking the lion’s share, and Hong Kong, China, and Thailand also taking some volume. In September 2020, the quantity exported was 20 percent lower but the value was 18 percent higher.

Japan’s dried sea cucumber exports in September totaled 2.2 MT, valued at JPY 83.9 million (USD 735,000, EUR 652,000), with China and Hong Kong the major importers. A year ago, there was no trade into China, while Hong Kong took 1.4 MT, valued at JPY 75.7 million (USD 664,000, EUR 589,000), meaning the volume of Japan’s sea cucumber exports rose only about 10 percent while their value has grown by 50 percent.

Frozen mackerel exports for the month were 7,865.8 MT, nearly the same as last year, valued at JPY 962.7 million (USD 8.4 million, EUR 7.4 million), a bit higher than in 2020. The top destinations were Vietnam, Egypt and Thailand.

Frozen tuna exports reached 163.2 MT, valued at JPY 377.4 million (USD 3.3 million, EUR 2.9 million), with the majority sent to Spain, the Netherlands, and France. Volume was down by 4 percent but value was up 40 percent compared to September 2020.

Frozen Pacific bluefin tuna exports in September totaled 13.3 MT, valued at JPY 14.4 million (USD 126,000, EUR 112,000), all to the U.S. Last September, the volume was about 19 percent higher, and the value was 14 percent higher.

Photo courtesy of retirementbonus/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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