Squid-flation bites Japan as catch sinks to new low
Nikkei -- Apr 11
Japan's catch of Pacific flying squid fell to a new all-time low in 2017, sending wholesale prices of the seafood to profit-squeezing highs for companies that process it into popular foods.

Often eaten as surume, a kind of fish jerky, flying squid is one of several kinds of seafood that have become scarce in recent years.

Last year's haul sank 15% to 53,000 tons, according to the JF Zengyoren national federation of fishing cooperatives. The squid catch has fallen by half in just two years. The previous low was plumbed in 2016.

Lighter catches have been blamed on changing sea temperatures, which impedes the spawning and growth of the squid. Critics have also pointed to overfishing by North Korean and Chinese fishing boats.

Wholesale prices of flying squid have climbed as a result. Last year's average price per kilogram came to 564 yen, a roughly 80% increase from two years earlier, according to JF Zengyoren.

Flying squid is often dried to make "surume," a squid jerky. (Photo by Tatsuya Inoue)

At Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, flying squid fetched around 950 yen during the first week of April. Although that price is about 20% lower than the comparable week last year, it is nearly 10% higher than in 2015 and 2016.

Besides being dried, flying squid is stuffed with rice to make ikameshi, and its innards are fermented into shiokara, a pungent topping for rice.

Rising wholesale prices are hitting squid processors in the wallet. Procurement costs for those companies have doubled in five years, said Hideki Tonami, director of the National Cooperative Association of Squid Processors, calling the business environment "the toughest it has ever been."

News source: Nikkei
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