The Japanese government is instituting a new support framework for businesses in the fishing industry. The move came in response to the Chinese government’s outrageous total ban on Japanese marine products. That embargo began when the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant started its discharge of treated water.
Ordered by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the plan consists of five pillars. These include steps to expand consumption and sustain production, strategies for countering the impact of rumors at home and abroad, and reorientation to alternative destinations for marine product exports.
The new package of measures is designed to quickly respond to China's brazen unilateral move. Hopefully, it will prove effective.
China has been an important customer of Japanese marine products. In 2022, total exports to China, including Hong Kong, came to ¥162.6 billion JPY (roughly $1.1 billion USD). This accounted for 42% of all of Japan's seafood exports that year.
The sudden halt to exports represents a severe blow to the industry. Nonetheless, we must not succumb to Beijing's unjustified economic coercion that disregards scientific evidence.
Boost Domestic Consumption
Increasing domestic consumption is one of the government's support measures. This should be effective both as a defensive measure and as a countermeasure. It has been estimated that if the Japanese people consume just ¥1,600 JPY ($11 USD) worth more seafood per capita for a year, that will offset the value of the lost exports to China and Hong Kong. That calculation seems quite plausible.
The Ministry of Defense has also issued a vice-ministerial-level directive calling for the active consumption of domestic marine products by Self-Defense Force troops and other personnel nationwide. Using more local seafood in meals provided at bases and other installations could lead to the revitalization of coastal and offshore fisheries. Provision should also be made for school lunches to serve more local seafood.
Japanese have been eating less fish per capita in recent decades. In fact, the per capita consumption of meat surpassed that of seafood in 2011. The gap has continued to widen ever since.
Stagnation in the fisheries industry is also a problem from the standpoint of ensuring a stable food supply for the nation. However, the government has been struggling to find an effective solution to the problem.
In conjunction with the discharge of treated water into the ocean, the government established a fund for the fishing industry. It allocated ¥30 billion JPY (about $200 million USD) for reputational damage countermeasures and another ¥50 billion JPY ($340 million USD) for continued support for the fishing industry. An additional ¥20.7 billion JPY ($140 million USD) has now been added for the new support measures.
Japan's fishing industry is facing grave challenges, such as a long-term decline in the number of domestic fishers and overreliance on the Chinese market. Now is the time to turn things around and revitalize our marine products sector so that it will become a growth industry.
Take scallops for example. Japan has been exporting large volumes of this shellfish to China. The new support project will make it possible for domestic producers to introduce new equipment needed to automatically shell and process the scallops. It will also help in developing new sales channels overseas among other initiatives.
The hurdles to be overcome are admittedly not low. But by working together as a nation, we can hopefully overcome them and revive Japan as a fishery powerhouse again.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun