Japanese Scallops to be Processed in Vietnam
|Fishermen land scallops at the port of Nemuro in Hokkaido. Photo: Reuters
Seafood e-retailer Foodison is partnering with companies including wholesaler Ebisu Shokai and trading houses Ocean Road and Nosui on a trial of one shipping container of unshelled scallops, or more than 20 tons, according to Nikkei Asia.
Under this arrangement, scallops from Ebisu are to be purchased by Ocean Road and exported to Vietnam, where they will be processed and sent back to Japan to be sold to restaurants and retailers by Foodison, Ebisu and Nosui. Ocean Road has experience doing the same with shrimp and crabs, processing them in Vietnam for sale in Japan.
The initial batch has already been sent to Vietnam, where the processing facility will produce half-shell scallops for cooking as well as sushi-grade meat and frozen scallops to be eaten raw. The companies will consider whether to do more there based on the results.
"If product prices come down, then they could be used by conveyor-belt sushi chains and big convenience store operators," said the head of the frozen fish division of Nosui, which sells processed seafood for commercial use.
The labor costs involved in processing are only about 20% to 30% as high in Vietnam as in Japan. For scallops for sushi or raw consumption, the price is expected to come out lower than for Japanese-processed products even after accounting for transportation costs.
Scallops on the half-shell, which need less work, are expected to be priced about the same as their Japanese counterparts.
|Japan produced 500,000 tons of unshelled scallops in 2022.
But even then, "there's not enough manpower in Japan, and processing takes time," said Kenichiro Hoshino, a manager at Foodison. "Instead of letting unshelled scallops sit in inventory, it's better to process them overseas and sell them to customers."
The Vietnam facilities are HACCP certified -- an international standard for food safety -- and the scallops they produce can be exported to markets besides Japan. Once they establish a track record, the companies will consider selling to Europe and the US as well.
Japan produced 500,000 tons of unshelled scallops in 2022, according to the Fisheries Agency.
The Japanese government has set out a menu of support measures including subsidies to cover processing equipment and storage costs. The US Embassy is promoting sales in other regions such as Southeast Asia, and the Japan External Trade Organization is looking to set up an export route to the US via processing in Mexico.
Bilateral trade between Japan and Vietnam has grown over 90-fold in the past three decades, thanks to proactive efforts in trade liberalization, making Japan Vietnam’s fourth-largest trading partner, according to a report from economists of HSBC Vietnam.
Japan and Vietnam’s economic relationship carries significant weight on many metrics. While Japanese firms originally approached Vietnam as a cost-competitive offshore manufacturing base, the latter’s robust economic growth story has created new avenues for the relationship to develop, especially for higher value-added activities, the report said./.
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