Japanese Buyers Size Up Seafood from Scotland

Japanese fish consumption has maintained a steady level for the last ten years and may increase as the economy picks up. However, sources of national supply have dwindled significantly and imports now account for half of the total supply. For some products, particularly mackerel, there is almost complete dependence on imports. Recognising that Japanese fishing stocks are in decline, a group of buyers looking to make new industry contacts and widen their supply-bases headed over to Scotland last month.

Anticipating a need to increase imports to meet demand in growth, Food from Britain (FFB) in partnership with Seafood Scotland and Scottish Development International (SDI), organised the week-long visit for some of Japan’s most influential seafood buyers. Organising a full itinerary for the six visitors, the organisers sought to maximise the networking and business development opportunities.

Touring a number of facilities including Peterhead Fish Market, shellfish, pelagic, salmon and whitefish processors, the buyers’ awareness of the Scottish seafood industry was raised and they were particularly impressed with the product range available. John Whitehead, FFB’s consultant in Scotland commented, “We feel the initiative helped to grow our relationship with the world’s number one seafood market. Our guests felt that the temperature control and traceability systems they saw were excellent and also found the Scottish commitment to sustainability reassuring. The buyers also commented that our industry appeared buoyant.”

The British seafood industry has suffered in the past from a lack of direct contact between Japan and Scotland. Initiatives like this one – and a separate Trade Development Visit, organised by FFB and planned for Tokyo in November – are moving business forward.

The Japanese buyers particularly reinforced the need for quality products and high standards of production from suppliers, which could be witnessed first-hand in the tour. Keiichi Suzuki, President of Tsukiji Uoichiba Co. Ltd., a major seafood wholesale company, commented, “The Japanese consumer is extremely conscious of excellence in taste, texture, colour and freshness. From what we have seen this week, there are many good opportunities to develop business. I was particularly impressed with the pelagic vessels and processors we saw.”

The group, consisting mainly of CEOs and Presidents of Japanese seafood companies, were also given tours of major retailers, a mussel farm and famous distillery, and met with the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and Scottish Quality Salmon. In total 13 processors were met with, providing an opportunity to compare Scottish supply capabilities with those already sourcing the Japanese market.

FFB, Seafood Scotland and SDI will continue to identify opportunities for seafood exports to Japan and will carry on progressing sourcing leads from the trip. The initiative was part funded by the three organisations.