Tsukiji wholesalers looking to boost sales to Southeast Asia

TOKYO - Fish wholesalers at Tokyo Central Wholesale Market in Tsukiji, Tokyo, are increasingly serving fresh, quality Japanese fisheries products to consumers in Southeast Asian countries by tapping into a temperature-controlled supply chain.

The move is largely attributable to declining domestic fish consumption as a result of the dwindling birthrate and aging population as well as changes in tastes of Japanese consumers. The number of wholesalers at the market has declined to below 700, less than half of its peak. To make up for the lost revenue, wholesalers have shifted their focus to consumers abroad.

Fortunately, sushi has become popular recently in Southeast Asia, and this is pushing up demand for seafood from Japan. Fisheries products exports have grown by 150 per cent in the past four years from roughly 20 billion yen (S$224 million) in 2009.

To tap into the surging demand in Southeast Asia, some leading wholesalers have started a system to directly deliver products from Tsukiji by air. However, it has not been easy for smaller wholesalers to independently offer overseas delivery. Thus, Wholesales Co-Operative of Tokyo Fish Market has taken the initiative and started a joint effort to develop the Asian market.

On Jan. 15, wholesalers from Tsukiji market hosted a food sampling party at a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Almost 60 operators of Japanese cuisine restaurants and wholesalers in the country, 80 per cent of them Vietnamese, tasted sushi with interest.

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