Prices of imported minced fish products -- ingredients of fishcakes used in popular oden hot pot dishes in Japan -- have been soaring due to increased demand in Europe, the United States and China as well as rising logistics and personnel costs, according to Finance Ministry trade data.
The import price of minced Alaska pollock, a mainstay ingredient for fishcakes, has been on the rise since around the spring of 2017 and stood at 401 yen per kilogram in June this year, marking a 30 percent increase from two years before.
Japan, which is believed to be the world's largest consumer of fishcakes or fish meat paste, imports many minced products known as surimi and processes them domestically. Most of the imports are minced Alaska pollock from the United States.
Popular items made from surimi include kamaboko fishcakes, typically made from pureed white fish and steamed until firm.
Meanwhile, consumption of cut fish have been expanding in Europe, the United States and China among health-conscious customers and Alaska pollock caught in the United States has been sought by various countries, according to an industry source.
The price of surimi rose in overseas markets because slices of Alaska pollock were increasingly sold, rather than being shipped as minced products.
"Overseas demands continue to be robust. There are no factors that will cause price declines," said a major fisheries trading company official.
Major marine product manufacturers including Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. and Kibun Foods Inc. were compelled to raise their fishcake product prices this March. But an official of a major seafood product maker said, "We are trying hard but yet to cover damage from the (surimi) price hikes."
Major convenience stores started this month sales of oden, a soy-flavored hot pot broth with fishcakes, radish and boiled eggs. Demand for fishcakes to be featured in osechi New Year dishes is also expected to increase toward the end of the year.
One major processed seafood maker said it will reduce its new product lineup by 20 percent compared to the average year as part of cost-cutting efforts. But hiking the selling price may be an option for companies that will not be able to cover the higher costs.
"Along with increases in surimi product prices, the logistics and labor costs are also rising and the situation exceeds the capacity of manufacturers," said Masaru Okuno, managing director at the Japan Kamaboko Association.© KYODO