• By The Financial District


With the increasing popularity of Japanese cuisine overseas, Japan's exports of farmed yellowtail had been rising -- but then the novel coronavirus pandemic struck and it remains to be seen if they will recover, Kyodo news service reported late on September 5, 2020.

Those in the industry hope that with demand from Japanese restaurants abroad dropping, the key will be whether yellowtail farmers can expand sales directly to individual households.

Yellowtail is one of the most popular fish in Japan, where it is often broiled with soy sauce while also being used for sushi and sashimi. It is also a prime example of the kind of export seen by the Japanese government as having great promise because of the boom in Japanese food overseas. The fish ranked seventh last year in terms of value among Japan's exports of agriculture and fisheries products. 

Yellowtail exports totaled 22.9 billion yen ($216 million) in 2019, jumping 45.4 percent from a year earlier and more than fourfold from 5.5 billion yen in 2009, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Waters off Miyazaki Prefecture have been a major farming area for yellowtail as they are rich in nutrients carried there by the Kuroshio Current, also known as the Black or Japan Current, running off the country's southern coastline.

The Kuroshio Current starts in the Philippines. "Yellowtail are at their best in winter, but we can ship them in summer as well," said Hiroto Kubota, sales planning assistant manager at Kurose Suisan Co., suggesting the fish can fetch a higher price in summer than in winter. The fish farming company in Kushima in the southwestern Japan prefecture, which unloaded a total of about 2,000 yellowtail in early July, said it takes about two years to grow fish in cages in seawater.