Japanese sushi prices soar as Russian sanctions hit industry

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Market vendors and restaurant owners in Japan are already feeling the impact of the limit on trade with Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, as Tokyo has been a major importer of seafood from Moscow.

The seafood supply chain has been uprooted amid international restrictions on Russia, sending prices higher and limiting the ability of food suppliers to obtain ingredients, such as salmon. 

At the same time, Japan has been impacted by a fall in seafood imports from Norway due to rerouted or cancelled flights from the European nation after access to Russia airspace was limited due to the increased international tensions. 

“We unfortunately have had to stop serving our popular aurora salmon dish,” an employee at Sushi Choshimaru told Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, as they are having to rely on “frozen salmon products” while it’s “not possible” to fly the item from Norway. 

Russia is the third-largest exporter of seafood to Japan, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, making up 8.6% of all seafood imports into the Asian nation. Red salmon is one of the key products provided by Russia, with Moscow providing 79% of the supply to Japan.

Japan announced on Wednesday that it is revoking Russia’s most-favoured nation trade status following further sanctions against Moscow, including banning imports of certain products. 

The most-favoured nation trade status had ensured the best trade terms possible between the two nations, reducing tariffs, trade barriers and providing them with the highest import quota or none at all.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has acknowledged the need for the government to step in to reduce the impact of sanctions on local companies. During a visit to Tokyos wholesale fish market in Toyosu last week, Kishida accepted that executives are now “struggling amid a double whammy of the covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis.”