Japanese Seafood Exports to China Sink 57% in FY23; U.S. Becomes Largest Seafood Export Destination

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An event to taste seafood caught off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in Tokyo in March 2019.

The value of Japanese seafood exports to China in fiscal 2023 fell to about 40% of the previous year’s level, an analysis of trade statistics for fiscal 2023 released by the Finance Ministry revealed.

China in fiscal 2022 was Japan’s largest seafood export destination, comprising about 30% of the market. But exports declined after the Chinese government suspended all imports of Japanese marine products to protest the discharge of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean in summer last year.

Japan, which has been aiming to expand exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products, is now required to review its export strategy.

According to the statistics, the value of Japanese marine product exports fell 17% from the previous fiscal year to ¥218.5 billion, marking the first decline in three years. This drop was due to the 57% decline of seafood exports to China — from ¥74.6 billion in fiscal 2022 to ¥32 billion in fiscal 2023 — the largest on record since comparable data became available in fiscal 1988.

The decline superseded the 49% fall in fiscal 2011 in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Exports of crab, salmon and bonito were down 90%, 88% and 77%, respectively. Exports of cod and tuna also declined notably.

The United States in fiscal 2023 was Japan’s largest export destination in terms of export value with a 22% share, surpassing China’s 15% share. In fiscal 2022, China was the largest export destination with a 28% share.

China opposed the release of the treated water, calling it “nuclear contaminated water” and has suspended all imports of Japanese seafood. Japan has been urging China to withdraw its blanket ban on imports by providing explanations based on scientific evidence. If nothing is done, Japan’s seafood exports to China will be almost zero in fiscal 2024.

The Japanese government has been aiming to expand exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products as a pillar of its growth strategy, with a policy of increasing exports from ¥912.1 billion in 2019 to ¥2 trillion in 2025 and then to ¥5 trillion in 2030.

On the assumption that China’s strong response to the discharge may be prolonged, Takahide Kiuchi, executive economist at Nomura Research Institute Ltd., said, “Japan needs to rebrand ‘safe and high quality’ Japanese products and expand their exports to countries and regions other than China.”