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Household consumption of seafood here may be surpassed by meat in the near future because strong demand for fish in China and other countries is pushing up prices amid a growing taste for easy-to-cook meat, the government said in a report released Tuesday.

Japan should put the brakes on declining seafood consumption by diversifying its sales networks and expanding catches to stabilize prices, according to the fisheries white paper for fiscal 2006.

There is potential demand for seafood, given that health-conscious consumers tend to prefer fish over meat, the report notes.

Citing a survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the white paper says annual per capita volume of seafood purchased in Japan came to slightly less than 13 kg in 2005, marginally topping meat.

Seafood purchases have been on a downward trend since a per capita total of 16 kg was reached in 1965. Meat purchases have been above 12 kg since the mid-1980s, compared with 6 kg in 1965, it says.

The white paper says children are getting fewer chances to eat seafood. Busy parents are reluctant to prepare and cook fish and wash up afterward because all these things take time, it says.

Based on a survey by the government-backed Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Finance Corp., the report says 70 percent of housewives in their 30s do not fillet fish and 10 percent do not grill it.

In China, Europe and the United States, meanwhile, seafood consumption is increasing on the back of growing interest in fitness and health, leading to higher seafood prices on global markets and reduced purchases by Japanese importers, the white paper says.

Meanwhile, Japan’s consumption of such fish as Norwegian salmon, U.S. red salmon and cod has fallen, it says.

According to the internal affairs ministry survey, young people eat less fish then their elders.

And while in the past, people began to prefer fish over meat as they grew older, today’s middle-aged consumers are eating more meat and less fish the same as the young, according to the ministry.

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