Beijing seafood dealers shocked by total Japan import ban

Fish dealers at a Beijing market appear shocked after China banned all seafood imports from Japan in response to its release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

With Chinese state media reports and social media posts filled with information emphasizing negative effects of the Fukushima water release on the marine environment and human body, the local food industry also expressed wariness about the outlook for businesses related to “washoku” traditional Japanese cuisine.

A fish dealer at the Beijing market said Friday the company had mainly procured cultured tuna from southwestern Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture due partly to the neighboring country’s advanced farming technology and stable supply, but now has to explore different sources such as Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

However, the taste and texture of tuna from other countries are “totally different” from those of Japanese imports and it is “impossible to replace them,” the dealer said.

A female worker of a retailer selling Japanese sake and seasoning said she is worried that nobody would be willing to consume Japanese food in China.

Tadashi Sasaki, who heads the Shanghai office of Nagasaki, regretted China’s total import ban, saying seafood is the prefecture’s mainstay export item.

There are about 80,000 Japanese restaurants in China, according to Chinese media.

In 2022, China topped the list of Japan’s agricultural, fishery and forestry product export destinations, with such shipments to the country hitting 278.2 billion yen, ($1.9 billion), up more than five-fold compared with 2013. Seafood exports accounted for some 30 percent of the total, according to Japanese government data.

By Zanib Sabahat Ali