Japanese retail stores are having a hard time finding salmon for sushi and sashimi

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RAS trout farmer and Mitsui-owned FRD Japan says demand is up during the coronavirus.

In 2008, Tetsu Sogo had an idea was born out of a sewage treatment technology pioneered by his firm, FRD. The breakthrough bacteria technology was by the following year was being used at an aquarium in Tokyo. But the COO soon realised it could be used for RAS salmon farming.

Harvesting
“We started harvesting last May and still having weekly fresh sales to local markets,” said Sogo to SalmonBusiness.

In April 2017, the Japanese trading house (and one of the largest corporate groups in the world) Mitsui invested USD 8 million dollars in the company to build a pilot plant in the Chiba prefecture, Tokyo. The pilot plant uses advanced bacteria-based filtration technology to cycle artificial seawater ie: tap water and added salt, through a closed containment environment.

“Our current capacity in phase1 plant is still 30 tonnes a year, and the fundraising of phase2 with 1,500 tonnes a year capacity is aimed to be completed in 2021,” said Sogo.

Tetsuro Sogo (with fish) showing off the company’s first batch of trout. PHOTO: FDR

Sashimi and sushi
Sogo explained that he sells fresh trim E fillet, a common form of salmon/trout used for sashimi and sushi, which is processed by a partner.

“Salmon/Trout sales in retail are getting better due to coronavirus,” he said. “But sushi chains are having a hard time. In total, I think consumption is in the downtrend”.

This may be offset around the fact as around 83% of seafood is cooked at home in Japan, with 85% of it consumed at dinner, numbers that were reported by Norwegian Seafood Council.

The supply chain during the pandemic has been a world of extremes. For example, some smaller smokers have seen earnings wiped out as HORECA contracts dry up.

But what has been your experience of the crisis on the salmon market in Japan as a RAS farmer?

FDR is now selling 1,500 tonnes of fish a year. PHOTO: FDR

“The target schedule fundraising target in 2021 has not changed. One concern is that designing is taking time than we expected, but as a target, we still trying to be on time,” he said in terms of FRD’s aims.

Operational problems
On the wider market, he explained that: “90 per of Atlantic salmon and trout consumed in Japan is imported from Norway and Chile. So retail stores are having a hard time finding enough stock of Chilean Frozen Trout Trim E for Sushi and Sashimi due to operational problems in Chile under coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, we at FRD have got many inquiries from retail stores for future contracts”.

In 2018, SalmonBusiness spoke to Sogo, who said that his dream was for one day to build a plant inside a supermarket chain’s distribution centre. This is still on the cards. he said.

“That idea is for one day in the future and I’m discussing that with a supermarket chain,” he said.