Japan expects major impact from Hong Kong ban on most of its seafood

By Yoshifumi Takemoto and Katya Golubkova

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan expects a “significant” impact from Hong Kong and Macau’s seafood import ban due to the upcoming release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to an official with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

Japan will begin dumping more than a million tons of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea on Thursday, more than a decade after the accident and amid sharp criticism from China.

China, the largest importer of Japanese seafood, will take measures to protect its marine environment, food safety and public health, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Beijing has already banned imports from some Japanese regions.

As part of the latest measures, Asia’s financial hub Hong Kong and gaming hub Macau – both Chinese special regions – will ban imports of aquatic products from ten regions of Japan, including Tokyo and Fukushima, starting Thursday.

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The impact of the seafood bans in Hong Kong and Macau could not be calculated immediately but would be “significant,” the MAFF official said, preferring not to be named due to ministry policy.

China, also Japan’s top scallop buyer and big buyer of sea cucumbers, imported 87.1 billion yen ($600 million) worth of Japanese seafood last year, accounting for a fifth of total Japanese seafood exports, according to MAFF data.

According to the data, Hong Kong, Japan’s second largest seafood market after mainland China, which the ministry calculates separately, bought 75.5 billion yen worth of seafood from Japan. Japan seafood export data includes pearl exports.

While China has harshly criticized the water release, it has allowed nine more companies from Russia – which shares some fishing areas with Japan in the Pacific – to export aquatic products, bringing the total number of permitted exporters to 894 companies, Russia’s Food Safety Inspectorate said in July 31

Russia and China have questioned the Fukushima water release plan. Japan said the feedback from the two was “unsupported by scientific evidence,” adding that the water pollution would be below levels considered safe for drinking by World Health Organization standards.

Japan’s top fisheries lobby has said it fears reputational damage from the water release, which Japan says is safe and has been practiced by other countries. The government would be prepared to suspend the release if unusually high concentrations of radioactive materials were detected.

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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