• Kyodo

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Fish transaction volume on the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, better known as Tsukiji, has returned to its levels before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on a recovery in consumer demand, market officials said Tuesday, adding catches from areas not directly affected by the disaster and nuclear crisis are offsetting the absence of a Tohoku region haul.

The volume in the week through last Thursday came to 746 tons, outpacing the 741 tons in the week of March 4-10, after plunging to 448 tons in the March 18-24 period after the disaster devastated the fisheries industry in one of Japan’s major fishery bases while also disrupting the country’s logistics network, the officials said.

The recouped demand also caused tuna wholesale prices, excluding imported tuna, to recover to an average ¥4,122 per kilogram in the latest reporting week after plunging to ¥3,328 in late March from the prequake level of ¥4,193.

The market officials traced the upturn to the gradual dissipation of the quake-induced mood of “self-restraint” among consumers and the termination of power rationing devised by Tokyo Electric Power Co. after the magnitude 9.0 quake crippled some of its power supply.

“Individual customers began to return to (sushi) shops from around last week,” said an official at the Tokyo-based industry association grouping 3,800 managers of sushi shops.

Sales also plummeted due to the nuclear crisis triggered by the quake, which raised fears that fish could be contaminated with radioactive materials released from the troubled Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, said Kenji Ando, a senior executive of one wholesaler.

e_SDLqAt one point, our sales plunged 60 percent due to fears about radioactive materials, but they have rallied to about 70 percent of what they used to be before the quake and the number of traders at the market has increased,” Ando said.

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