Prices of imported minced fish products — ingredients for 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 ($3.8) per kilogram in June this year, marking a 30 percent increase from two years ago.
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.
Popular items made from surimi include kamaboko fishcakes, typically made from pureed white fish and steamed until firm.
Meanwhile, consumption of presliced fish has also been expanding in Europe, the United States and China among health-conscious customers, with Alaska pollock caught in the United States being a big seller, according to an industry source..
“Overseas demand continues to be robust. There are no factors that will cause price declines,” said a 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 last March.
But an official with one of the seafood product makers said the price hikes were not enough to cover profit shortfalls that have resulted from the increased costs of the raw materials,
This month major convenience stores started sales of oden, a soy-flavored hot pot broth with fishcakes, radishes 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 an 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.