Escalating fears of radiation-contaminated water from Fukushima has boosted the sales of fishery products imported from non-Japan areas, while the sales of so-called “domestic products” took a nosedive, figures showed on Sunday.
Domestic products include fish that were caught in Korean waters in the close vicinity of Japan.
The sales of imported fish rose drastically last month ― 56.5 percent for Norwegian salmon, 48.1 percent for Ecuadorean and Peruvian shrimp ― compared to last year. For U.S. and Canadian lobster, the figure jumped as much as 831.5 percent, according to Lotte Mart officials.
Sales of mackerel and hairtail ― the two kinds of fish that are most popular in Korea but come mostly from Japan ― went down by 30.6 percent and 11.8 percent respectively, during the same period. Sales of pollack, which also mostly inhabits the seas surrounding Japan, tumbled by more than 60 percent.
The drastic change of consumer sentiment was greatest in the case of fish for which both domestic and imported options are available, officials said.
For instance, while the sales of mackerel and hairtail, which are some of the most common consumer items in Korea, plunged by 31.5 percent and 11.8 percent, those of Norwegian mackerel and Senegalese hairtail soared by 15.8 percent and 82.8 percent, respectively.
Last week, the Korean government decided to ban fisheries imports from eight prefectures in Japan.
According to the Korea Customs Service, the total fisheries imports, which had risen steadily until 2011, faltered in 2012 as the import of Japanese fish dropped. Also, the proportion of Japanese products fell from 10 percent in 2010 to a mere 3.2 percent last year, officials said.
In response to the negative consumer sentiment, local distribution dealers have been increasing the purchase of fishery products from countries other than neighboring Japan.
Until 2000, Lotte Mart had imported five fishery items from four countries ― the United States, Russia, China, and Vietnam ― but it is now selling over 50 items imported from some 30 countries.
“Our plan is to further diversify the range of imported fish, in order to meet market changes,” said a Lotte Mart official.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org