June 21, 2024

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Japan’s scallop industry seeks safe harbour from China ban

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The jumbo scallops from the northern Japanese fishing town of Betsukai, on the island of Hokkaido, have a reputation for being among the most delicious on the planet, a cherished ingredient on a classic sushi plate.

But for the past month, the Japanese government has exhorted the public to consume at least five of the delicacies daily to help draw down stocks that have piled up after Beijing banned imports of the bivalves in August.

Last week, the US military bases in Japan bought up hundreds of tonnes of scallops, crustacean casualties in what Washington’s ambassador to Tokyo Rahm Emanuel called the “economic wars” with China.

“It’s probably the biggest industry shock we’ve had in a decade,” Takeshi Ise, president of Marui Sato Kaisan, a scallop processing company in Betsukai, said of the embargo, which China introduced after Japan began releasing filtered water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But even as businesses reel from the aftermath, investors said Beijing’s ban could deliver an unexpected boost for the industry, offering an opportunity to accelerate consolidation and redirect supply chains to sell directly into markets such as the US.

Scallops are Japan’s most exported food product, worth about ¥91bn last year, up 42 per cent on the year before. China is the biggest buyer, but industry executives said only about 10 to 15 per cent was consumed domestically, while the rest was processed and exported to the US and south-east Asia.

US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, announced a plan to buy Hokkaido scallops on Tuesday © Takaaki Kameda/The Yomiuri Shi/Reuters

Exports of Hokkaido-based seafood products directly to the US jumped to ¥1.6bn ($10.6mn) in September from ¥1mn the year before, as sales to China, much of which was previously for processing and re-export, fell to zero, according to customs…

2023-11-04 22:00:49

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