Scottish seafood sector forges links with Japan

Scottish seafood companies are getting ready to host a visit by top Japanese fish buyers from 12-19th July and are hopeful of landing some lucrative supply contracts.

During the trip, which has been organised by Seafood Scotland (SFS) in conjunction with Food From Britain (FFB) and Scottish Development International (SDI), five senior fish buyers, together with the head of Tokyo’s main fish market, will tour Scotland to gain an important overview of the Scottish seafood supply chain. They will visit fishing vessels, fish markets, whitefish, pelagic, salmon and shellfish processors and a major retailer.

Japan is the world’s largest importer of seafood and the Japanese population has one of the highest per capita rates of seafood consumption. While UK consumers eat just 21kg of fish each per year, the Japanese eat 75kg. The visitors are particularly interested in exploring the retail side of the market, with a view to introducing new concepts into their own country.

Recent research by FFB showed that in 2003, Japan produced nearly 6 million tonnes of seafood, and imported a further 4 million tonnes. The UK currently sells just 1% of its £900 million seafood exports to Japan, but the potential to increase business has been identified as considerable.

Discovering that Japanese importers and wholesalers had a limited understanding of the capabilities of the Scottish market was the catalyst for organising the visit.

According to Libby Woodhatch, CEO of SFS, the Japanese market demands high quality standards and precise product specifications, both of which are second nature to Scottish seafood suppliers. “We have arranged a comprehensive tour for our Japanese guests, which will show the high standards of our vessels, markets and processing operations, and introduce them to Scottish seafood suppliers. The aim is to provide a unique opportunity to explore new business links,” she said.

Terry Curran of Gourmet Choice in Portsoy, already supplies smoked salmon products to Japan and to Japan Airlines, and is excited by the opportunity to cement existing relations and forge new ones. “Together with speciality food company Scottish Choice, we are providing a superb Scottish lunch for the delegation, which we are sure will impress,” he informed. The delegation will go on to tour the Gourmet Choice production facilities.

Mark Pratt of Caley Fisheries in Peterhead will demonstrate his company’s state-of-the-art herring and mackerel processing facilities, with which some of the Japanese companies are already familiar. “This is an excellent opportunity to increase our links with the Asian market and we are looking forward to meeting the delegation and to working with them in future,” stated Mark.

Grahame Sinclair, MD of crab processors Burgon’s of Eyemouth is impressed by the nature of the high-powered delegation, which includes four company presidents. “We all have an opportunity to begin long-lasting business relationships with Japanese seafood trading companies and I am sure that the visit will be a great success,” he said.

The Scottish tour will round off with a couple of experiences guaranteed to leave a favourable and lasting impression – a trip to St Andrew’s to watch the Open Golf Championship, and a tour of a whisky distillery.