Japanese Oysters Exported to EU for 1st Time

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Oysters that were farmed in Mitsu Bay are seen at the Hiroshima prefectural government building on Friday.

HIROSHIMA — Oysters from Hiroshima Prefecture have been exported to the European Union, marking Japan’s first oyster exports to the region. The plane carrying the non-shucked frozen mollusks took off from Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Thursday.

With the domestic market expected to shrink due to the declining population, the Hiroshima prefectural government is looking overseas to expand its oyster sales channels. Hiroshima boasts the largest volume of oysters caught and farmed in the nation.

In recent years, the prefecture’s annual production of oysters has hovered near 20,000 tons — not including shell weight — accounting for 60% of Japan’s total. The oysters exported to EU areas were farmed in Mitsu Bay off Higashi-Hiroshima and then frozen by Kunihiro Inc., a seafood processing company in Onomichi in the prefecture. The oysters can be consumed raw after thawing.

In October 2021, the prefectural government designated the waters in Mitsu Bay as an “oyster-production area” for exports to the EU. In January this year, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry issued a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certificate to Kunihiro’s facilities for oyster processing and other processes. HACCP is an international standard for sanitary management required for exporting marine products to the EU.

The prefecture has primarily exported frozen oysters to Southeast Asia, but with the HACCP certification, the Hiroshima shellfish are expected to see increased sales in the EU. In September last year, officials of the prefectural government and the company visited four European countries — including Germany and France — and held business meetings with local wholesalers and importers. The Hiroshima oysters were lauded for their larger size and richer flavor than European oysters. Kunihiro said it has already received orders from EU wholesalers for 30 tons of oysters.

To promote Hiroshima’s oysters and sake, the prefectural government is planning to set up a booth at a food event scheduled to be held in Paris from Friday to Sunday.

Kunihiro Chairman Ikuzo Kawasaki and the company’s business development head met with Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki at the prefectural government office Friday to report on the company’s EU exports.

“We’re very excited that oysters from the prefecture are the first Japanese oysters to be exported to the EU for raw consumption,” Yuzaki said. “The prefectural government wants to cooperate as much as possible.”

Kawasaki said, “As a representative of Hiroshima as well as Japan, we want to convey the appeal of our local oysters to the world.”