Japan’s seafood imports from Russia hit record $1.2 billion in 2022
This photo shows frozen Russian king crab on sale at a fresh fish store in Tokyo, on May 2, 2023.
Japan imported a record 155.2 billion yen ($1.2 billion) worth of marine products from Russia in 2022, data from the Finance Ministry showed Friday, highlighting the country’s continued reliance on Moscow for its seafood supply despite a deterioration of relations over the war in Ukraine.
While Japan did impose economic sanctions, including banning imports of vodka and lumber, on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine last year, marine products were exempted as Tokyo deemed the adverse effect on domestic businesses would be too great.
Japan’s poor catches and Russia’s larger volume in waters around disputed islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were factors in last year’s imports hitting the highest since 1992, a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The previous record high was logged in 2018 when Japan imported 140.2 billion yen of marine products from Russia. It is estimated that Japan imports around 40 percent of the seafood consumed in the country, with Russia ranking third after Chile and the United States by import value in 2022.
By product, snow crab accounted for the highest value of imports from Russia last year at 32.6 billion yen. The increase is likely due to Russian exporters shifting to Japan after being banned from the U.S. and other Western markets, according to sources in the fisheries industry.
The figure was also boosted by Japan’s need for new import sources due to a U.S. suspension of snow crab fishing in the Bering Sea due to declining stock, the sources said.
Imports of pollack paste, the raw ingredient for “kamaboko” fishcakes, increased roughly seven-fold from the previous year to 7.4 billion yen in 2022. Poor fishing conditions in Japan also resulted in an increase in imports of sea urchins, salmon and trout from Russia, among other products.
“The Russian government is focusing on revitalizing the fishing industry for the development of its Far East. The presence of Russian products (in Japan) is expected to increase in the future as production continues to decrease in the United States,” said Seiji Haraguchi, director of the Hokkaido Trawl Fisheries Cooperative Federation.