Vietnam is expected to replace China as one of the primary processing origins of Japanese seafood to satisfy the U.S. market needs.
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Dec.1 that its scallop processing needs, previously done in China, would be transferred to Vietnam after discussions between the U.S. Embassy in Japan and several Japanese ministries and departments.
Other seafood processing opportunities are expected to evolve through cooperation between the three nations.
This comes after Beijing banned Japanese seafood products over concerns about “polluted water” discharged by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in August.
Beijing ignored the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) assessment that Japan’s wastewater disposal was safe and meets internationally recognized nuclear safety standards.
South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk Yeol, condemned Beijing’s smear campaign over the Fukushima water incident, while U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, said China’s ban on Japanese seafood was a form of “economic coercion”.
Scallops are a mainstay of Japan’s seafood exports. Japanese official figures show that 30 percent of the export volume in 2022, about 140,000 tons, was exported to China.
Of these, about 28 percent, or 30,000-40,000 tons, were processed in China by shucking and freezing, then shipped to the United States.
China topped Japan’s list of top seafood and food-exporting countries and regions in 2022.
But over the past months, Japan has prioritized finding alternative ways of exporting seafood products to tackle the crisis as China ceased Japanese seafood imports in August of the “polluted water” claims.
US Helping Hand
Ichiro Miyashita, Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, expressed gratitude to Mr. Emanuel during a Dec. 1 meeting for the U.S. ambassador’s efforts in facilitating Vietnam’s import of Japanese scallops and other seafood products and expanding Japanese seafood export volume to the United States.
Japanese news media reported that the U.S. embassy had recommended 19 pertinent facilities for seafood processing in Vietnam.
The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government-affiliated institution, is considering a visit to see whether those Vietnam facilities can meet U.S. requirements.
Meanwhile, a recruiting program for Japanese seafood processing enterprises has planned a business tour to Vietnam in January next year.
Industry insiders believe Vietnam will reap great benefits if the U.S.-Japan-Vienam cooperation goes well.
In contrast, Beijing will not only have failed to exert economic pressure on Japan but also weaken its economy through its move.
Engaging in exploring more export distribution channels, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Dec. 1 that it would invite seafood buyers from the United States, Canada, and other countries to Japan starting Dec. 3.
Prefectural governments in multiple prefectures, such as Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, also plan to convene seafood-related conferences, with inspection activities scheduled next February in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kyushu, and other seafood production areas.
Meanwhile, the U.S. market has been a focus for Japan in diversifying the risk of over-reliance on China.
On Dec. 5, JETRO claimed it would boost its presence in the southern U.S. by opening a new office in Houston, Texas, to support Japanese food exports. JETRO currently has two offices—one in Los Angeles on the West Coast and one in New York on the East Coast.
The Houston office is set to cooperate with local Japanese supermarkets and wholesalers to promote Japanese food in the United States.
According to JETRO’s survey, there are a lot of opportunities for Japanese foods in the southern part of the United States, especially in Texas, the second-largest U.S. market.
JETRO, the Japanese Consulate General in Houston, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries have already collaborated with local retail wholesalers to promote Japanese cuisine.
The efforts include organizing training classes for foreign chefs on Japanese cuisine, hosting free tasting events for scallops and other food products at supermarkets in cities like Houston and Dallas, and demonstrating how Japanese ingredients can be used to prepare non-Japanese cuisine, such as Mexican dishes, Japanese financial media Nikkei reported on Dec. 6.