Western demand boosts octopus prices in Japan

Published on
May 3, 2018

Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) imported to Japan from Africa in April was 70 percent more expensive this year than it was in 2017 due to a poor spring catch in Morocco and increased consumption in Spain and the United States.

The Nikkei Asian Review reported prices have risen to JPY 1,600 (USD 14.89, EUR 12.09) per kilogram, compared to JPY 950 (USD 8.69, EUR 7.18) a year earlier. 

Japan relies heavily on imports from Morocco and Mauritania. April and May are biological rest periods for the octopus fisheries in Morocco and Mauritania, so there is usually tight supply at this time. Japan then turns to China and Vietnam. In recent years, tight supplies in spring have led trading companies to look to other sources, such as Indonesia and South America.

The catch this early spring season in Morocco was 60 percent that of last year due to lower ocean temperatures, which stunted octopus growth, and stricter fishing restrictions imposed by the government.

Octopus is also rising in popularity in Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries. Japanese imports of Moroccan and Mauritanian octopus combined were 29,000 metric tons (MT) in 2017, only a little up from five years ago, but Spain imported 42,000 MT and Italy 16,000 MT in the same year, up roughly 100 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Octopus imports in the US in 2017 increased 60 percent from five years earlier to 25,600 MT.

Tokyo retail prices for Mauritanian octopus are currently from JPY 358 to 398 (USD 3.27 to 3.64, EUR 2.71 to 3.01).

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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