Japan can’t get a hold on price

Seafood imported to Japan was more expensive in July than in the same month a year ago, according to new customs data.

The yen was valued at 87 to the U.S. dollar in July 2010, but strengthened to 79 this year. This should have given Japan more buying power, but prices rose even in yen terms due to increased demand from Europe, Korea and China and tighter catch limits.

The import price of king crab from the Russian Far East doubled to JPY 2,252 per kilogram, while snow crab gained 30 percent, mainly due to increased demand from Korea and China.

More competition for tuna, especially from the European Union, has pushed bigeye to JPY 850 per kilogram, up 10 percent. In South Pacific islands, Japanese companies usually fix six-month contracts on a yen basis, so they have not been able to benefit from the higher yen. The average import price for frozen bluefin tuna was JPY 2,889 per kilogram.

Octopus gained 30 percent, to JPY 710 per kilogram, because major suppliers Morocco and Mauritania implemented stricter catch limits. Prices at Tokyo supermarkets have followed upward.

Sablefish was up 23 percent to JPY 1,553, and goldeneye snapper rose 51 percent to JPY 630. Silver salmon rose 22 percent to JPY 575 per kilogram.

The higher overall prices continued into August, as domestic production was restrained by damage from the March earthquake and tsunami.

Additionally, in September, fishermen in Hokkaido could not set nets for fall salmon when the season opened because of a powerful typhoon. As a result, there is a shortage of fresh product. Prices have temporarily spiked, despite a good predicted count of returning fish.

Total import quantity by volume was down 9 percent to 164,000 metric tons in July, even as the value was up.

In contrast to rising wholesale seafood prices, overall prices for food and household items sold at supermarkets fell in July, according to a study published the Nikkei business daily. A point-of-sale survey showed year-on-year declines for 52 of 60 food and household items.

Retailers are discounting prices to reflect the stronger yen. This places importers in a bind — if they pay more to secure product they may not be able to pass on the cost to consumers.

Source: Seafood Source

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