• Chunichi Shimbun


As people stay home longer amid the spread of COVID-19 infections, the popularity of pets is increasing, with more people seeking out animals as a buffer against stress.

On the other hand, pet animals such as tropical fish and reptiles have recently been in short supply due to a drop in imports that has occurred in tandem with a decline in international flights, leading to a rise in prices.

With both new demand and supply shortages brought about by the pandemic, those working in the pet industry say it is frustrating that they are missing out on this business opportunity.

Fuji 3A Project, a store in Nagoya that specializes in sales of tropical fish, has been receiving more visitors after magazines and TV programs seized upon tropical fish as a perfect pet to keep people company while staying at home.

“Tropical fish are cute and easy to take care of, and it provides me with comfort every day at home,” said a 26-year-old man who began keeping them in April.

Kamihata Fish Industries Ltd., an importer and wholesaler of foreign aquarium fish in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, and one of Fuji 3A Project’s suppliers, has posted a large increase in sales since June, after the government lifted a state of emergency.

The government’s ¥100,000 cash handout program also appears to have helped boost demand for pets, with the supply shortage continuing for imported pets such as guppies and hamsters, which are cheap and easy to take care of.

“As people spend more time at home, more people seem to be buying pets to ease loneliness,” says Kazuhiko Ihara, Kamihata Fish Industries’ manager in charge of western regions.

The company imports tropical fish mainly from South America and Southeast Asia, but shipments from the former were almost zero between March and May because of cancellations of international flights.

Imports from Southeast Asia also decreased sharply, and prices of tropical fish are rising, reflecting an increase in freight costs.

The same has been true for snakes and other reptiles. According to Rep Japan Ltd., an importer and wholesaler of reptiles and other animals in the city of Shizuoka, prices of popular species rose 30 percent to 40 percent at most.

Since the firm’s volume of imports has dropped to about 20 percent of normal levels, the firm says it might have to raise prices further if the supply shortage continues in the future.

Lockdowns and stay-at-home requests issued around the world are also making it difficult to catch animals. “If such a situation goes on for six more months, the whole animal importing industry will be in a difficult situation,” says Rep Japan President Tsuyoshi Shirawa, 51.

Kuwakabu Planet, an insect shop in Chiryu, Aichi Prefecture, received no shipments between March and mid-July of wild insects captured overseas. Currently, the shop only sells insects bred in Japan.

“While our sales have declined, we hope to strengthen after-sales services including giving advice on raising them,” said Nobuhiro Kamiya, the 40-year-old manager of the shop.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Aug. 11.

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