Japan aims to boost aquaculture exports amid lagging production and declining domestic consumption

The Japanese Fisheries Agency (JFA) has added policies for aquaculture products other than fish – mainly shellfish and seaweed – to its aquaculture strategy. The new policies aim to exploit potential aquaculture sites more fully and to take into account the new rules on who can manage aquaculture sites.

Following a major reform of Japan’s fisheries law in 2018, private companies will be able to obtain access rights to aquaculture areas that were preferentially reserved for fishing cooperatives. The document, titled “Review of the Global Strategy for the Industrialization of Aquaculture Growth”, was released at the end of July.

In the “Fisheries Policy Reform” announced on June 1, 2018, the national government began formulating a comprehensive strategy for the growth of the non-fish aquaculture sector from production to sale and export. . He formed the Aquaculture Growth Industrialization Promotion Council, made up of business groups, NGOs and academic experts, to decide on the best methods to develop the sector. The board decided on a strategy of moving from a production orientation to a market orientation in order to better respond to market demands. The council then compiled the results of its shared vision as a comprehensive strategy for the growth and industrialization of the agricultural industry.

The overall strategy notes the main trends in the aquaculture industry:

  • Over the past 20 years, as Japan’s aquaculture industry has matured and stagnated, global aquaculture production has quadrupled and is expected to continue to grow.
  • Domestic demand for seafood will decline over the next decades and aquaculture production will decline if it remains dependent on domestic demand. This is largely because the population of Japan is in decline and diets in Japan are moving away from fish for Western-style meals with more meat.
  • JFA encourages appropriate and efficient use of aquaculture sites to expand scale and attract new entrants under the revised Fisheries Act.
  • The technological development of large-scale marine aquaculture and land-based aquaculture is advancing in Japan. Land-based aquaculture creates the potential to use new or artificially created breeds of fish without danger of leakage.
  • Unlike fish – the quality of which can be improved by controlling feeding – shellfish culture and algae cultivation are strongly affected by the growing environment, such as nutrient concentration and water temperature. The impact of the environment on growth was highlighted in the Seto Inland Sea, where the introduction of improved wastewater treatment resulted in a decrease in the amount of nutrients, which reduced production seaweed and peach. Finding the right balance between clean water and an adequate supply of nutrients will be an important issue.
  • Shellfish farming and seaweed cultivation does not require feeding, but labor savings have not been realized because the cost of shelling oysters and drying seaweed and kelp is high. In 1988, there were 13,657 people employed in aquaculture, but this number fell to 7,062 in 2018. The resulting labor shortage necessitated the introduction of IT and IT equipment and the use of more foreign workers.

JFA said it plans to create separate strategies for domestic and export markets and will try to better link production stages to maximize added value. As fishing cooperatives no longer have exclusive rights to aquaculture sites, the agency is considering five types of aquaculture management bodies that are possible within the framework of the reforms: the collaboration of producers, or the cooperation between several relatively small farmers; Collaboration with producers – or co-operation of farmers and fishing cooperatives and feed suppliers, processors and distributors in production areas; Producer-type businesses, which can grow through acquisitions; Integrated businesses, or the management of all or part of the agricultural value chain by a single company; And distribution type companies, whose main activity is distribution and sale, with the participation of farmers.

JFA said it will prioritize the collaboration of small-scale producers in the short term as it seeks to establish a management infrastructure for non-fish aquaculture in Japan.

In addition, as part of JFA’s new strategy, scallops and pearls have been added to the list of priority export items. The Japanese farmed scallop industry is centered on Mutsu Bay in Aomori Prefecture, where scallops are grown suspended from vertical ropes with the “over-the-ears” method. Cultured pearls were developed by the Mikimoto Pearl Co. based in Toba, Mie Prefecture. He remains the first producer.

The strategy document defined key performance indicators for all elements to measure progress, including the newly added ones. The 2030 production targets, and 2018 production, for priority export items were: dab (seriola quinqueradiata), with a production target of 240,000 metric tons (MT) against 140,000 MT currently; Pacific bluefin tuna – stable production at 20,000 MT; salmon and trout, with increased production of 30,000 to 40,000 MT compared to the current 20,000 MT; sea ​​bream, with a production target of 110,000 MT against 60,000 MT currently; newly reared fish species such as grouper, with a target production of 10,000 to 20,000 MT against no current production; scallops, with a targeted production of 210,000 MT against 170,000 MT currently; and pearls (which are measured by value rather than tonnage), JPY 20 billion (USD 180 million, EUR 154 million) versus JPY 13.6 billion (USD 122 million, EUR 105 million).

Strategies to meet market needs include the introduction of the HACCP quality control method and the substitution of farmed fish for natural fish in the domestic market based on its predictable supply and size and quality. product constants.

The Japan Food Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) was established to promote Japanese foods to overseas consumers. In addition to promoting amberjack and red sea bream in Hong Kong and Taiwan markets, it is working to increase demand for yellowtail flounder in the United States.

Another organization, the Fisheries and Processed Fisheries Export Expansion Council, focuses on organizing business meetings between local buyers and Japanese companies, and organizing seminars on Japanese seafood. He mainly focused on the European Union and South East Asia.

Photo courtesy of JinFujiwara / Shutterstock

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