Prices Soar for New Year’s Seafood Delicacies

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prices of salmon roe and herring roe, shown on sale in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward on Thursday, are noticeably higher than usual this year.

Salmon roe and herring roe, traditional delicacies on dining tables during the New Year holidays, will be coming at higher prices this year.

The combination of a poor catch of the parent fish, the suspension of operations at overseas processing plants due to the coronavirus crisis and other factors has boosted prices 20% to 40% higher than usual.

Saito Fish Shop, a fresh fish dealer located in Tsukiji, Tokyo, has recently priced its salmon roe marinated with soy sauce from Hokkaido at ¥8,500 for 500 grams, an increase of about 40% above usual. Salted herring roe from Alaska was nearly 20% higher at ¥6,000 per kilogram.

“Because of the poor catch, there are few imports and we can’t help but raise prices,” said the shop manager.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, the average wholesale price of salmon roe in November, including domestic and imported, was ¥6,126 per kilogram, up 40% from the same month last year. Salted herring roe, at ¥3,125, is 20% higher.

The hike in salmon roe prices is mainly due to poor catches of salmon. According to the Japan Fisheries Information Service Center, the nationwide catch of salmon in the 2020 season totaled 46,895 tons through the end of November, a drop from last year’s record low for the same period. As salmon prefer cold waters, the rise in sea temperatures is believed to be affecting the numbers.

Herring roe prices are also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. A lockdown in Alaska, a main production area, caused a temporary shutdown in processing plants in the state.

Prices are also soaring for spiny lobster and snow crabs. According to the Tokyo central market, the average wholesale price of lobsters in November was ¥6,959 per kilogram, up 32% from a year earlier, while that for snow crabs was up 29% at ¥3,358.

As many families plan to spend the New Year period at home, food sales are relatively strong, but many are also cutting back on the volume of purchases. Major supermarkets, while seeing increases in purchase prices, are trying to keep prices as low as possible for such essential ingredients for New Year dishes.

“We are aiming for a price range that is easy on consumers by expanding and securing import sources and replacing salmon roe with trout roe,” one supermarket official said.