Business

Tough times for Tokyo's Toyosu fish market

KYODO

Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market, which opened in 2018 to replace the Tsukiji market, is facing tough times with both trade volume and prices of high-end fish and other marine products tumbling in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The wholesale market is famous for its tuna auctions, but trading volume for the fish has fallen by roughly half from a year earlier amid sharp declines in the number of customers at restaurants, especially foreign tourists, according to the operator.

Most of the seafood at the Toyosu market is snapped up by professional buyers supplying customers such as upscale sushi restaurants, but amid the current market conditions some unsold products end up being bought online at discount prices by members of the public.

“Fish prices are down and we have no customers. Our business is almost dying,” said Masaru Harada, 53, president of the intermediate wholesaler Dairiki Shoten, which has a shop inside the Toyosu market.

Dairiki trades 50 to 60 expensive marine products such as cherry bass for its customers, including sushi and seafood restaurants in Tokyo’s Ginza and Akasaka districts, but a number of transactions have been canceled since around March due to the pandemic’s impact.

The company is limiting the work hours of its 15 employees to survive the hardship, but its sales have plunged by about 80 percent.

Its overseas customers have also decreased, and only those in Hong Kong are now buying. The company said it is considering applying for loans in anticipation of the situation getting worse.

“This is our biggest crisis, and we can’t foresee the future,” Harada said. “We have to overcome it by uniting as team Dairiki.”

According to a weekly trading report by the Toyosu market for the seven-day period that started April 10, daily trade volume for fresh fish plunged about 30 percent from a year earlier to 469 tons. Volume for tuna halved to 19.7 tons.

The wholesale price of tuna caught by Japanese boats fell about 70 percent from a year earlier to an average of ¥2,910 per kilogram.

Tourists have been barred from entering the market since late February, with restaurants and shops there only accepting market workers.

Some online sales sites with logistics bases in the Toyosu market have started selling items unsold to professional buyers, such as sea urchin and salmon eggs, for general customers at discount prices.

Akifumi Hagiwara, the 58-year-old president of an operator of the online sales website Umaimon.com, said his company has seen a 10-fold increase in daily sales lately.

“Best seafood is brought to the Toyosu market from around the world. We would like to support producers by selling items that were not sold in the market,” Hagiwara said.

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