Japanese farmer to double production as demand soars in Thailand

by
Editorial Staff

Japanese seafood companies are capitalizing on Thailand’s growing demand for Japanese cuisine, notably farm-raised salmonids, as part of their expansion into Southeast Asian markets.

Japanese seafood companies, including salmon producer Okamura Foods, are expanding their presence in Thailand as part of a broader strategy to tap into Southeast Asian markets.

Farm-raised salmon and trout from Japan, in particular, are reported to be gaining popularity among Thai consumers.

This expansion is driven by Thailand’s growing appetite for Japanese cuisine, evidenced by a sharp increase in Japanese restaurants and a significant rise in Japanese marine product exports to Thailand, according to a recent article in Japanese financial newspaper, Nikkei.

The move by Japanese seafood companies into Thailand is part of a broader strategy to tap into Southeast Asian markets as the Japanese domestic market shrinks.

With Thailand hosting over 5,000 Japanese restaurants, a marked increase from 745 in 2007, the appetite for Japanese cuisine, particularly seafood, is growing. Japanese cuisine is reputed to be the second most popular cuisine in Thailand, only after Thai food.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the domestic salmon and trout industries are thriving with salmon having replaced tuna as the most popular sushi topping in the country. The result is a quickly maturing industry, now looking to find export markets.

Double digit growth

The Japanese marine product exports to Thailand reached 23.5 billion yen ($158 million) in 2022, a 14.6% increase from the previous year. While this figure is modest compared to exports to China, the US, and Taiwan, the Thai market is showing promising growth potential.

Uoriki, a Japanese company specializing in fresh fish and sushi, is making inroads in Thailand, recently opening a store in a large Lotus’s supermarket in Bangkok on October 30.

The outlet, showcasing a range of seafood including farm-raised seafood from Aomori prefecture, has garnered significant consumer interest.

This salmon, known for its firm flesh and high fat content, is raised in the Tsugaru Strait and has been particularly popular with Thai consumers.

Japan Salmon Farm, based in Fukaura, Aomori prefecture, is the producer of this sought-after salmon, a type of steelhead that goes by the name of Aomori Salmon.

In Japanese, the term for steelhead is スチールヘッド (suchīruheddo), directly borrowed from English. However, it’s not as commonly recognized or specifically distinguished in Japanese cuisine as it is in North American cuisine. In many cases, steelhead might be broadly categorized under 鱒 (masu), which encompasses various types of trout, or sometimes even 鮭 (sake), which refers to salmon.

Japan is not the only country to benefit from the increase in demand for salmon. In 2022, imports of Norwegian salmon into the South East Asian country rose 6% to 16,100 tons, while the total value of imports increased by 55%, according to The Norwegian Seafood Council. Thailand is now the third largest market for Norwegian seafood in Asia after China and South Korea.

Plans to double production

Okamura Foods, the parent company of Japan Salmon Farm and a prominent player in salmon farming and seafood processing, went public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Standard Market in September.

The company currently operates five sea farms and plans expansion in the coming year, aiming to increase its production from 1,600 tons this year to 3,000 tons next year.

Founded in 1971 in Aomori, Japan, the company started as a marine products processing factory. By 1990, the company partnered with Danish aquaculture firm Musholm A/S to create the world’s first seasoned salmon roe from frozen trout eggs. This partnership grew stronger when Musholm A/S became a subsidiary in 2005, enhancing Okamura Foods’ expertise in aquaculture. Expanding internationally, the company ventured into the Vietnamese market in 2008, launching a chain of Japanese restaurants. In 2017, Okamura Foods consolidated its aquaculture operations by establishing Japan Salmon Farm Inc. in Aomori for large-scale salmon farming and also built its first overseas factory in Myanmar to diversify its processing operations.

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