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Japanese frozen food consumption 1.5 million tons, as imports gain.

Vegetable imports soar 26.8%, and previously unpublicized prepared FF imports add at least 70.000 tons to official consumption total.

Japanese frozen food consumption undoubtedly topped 1.5 million tons in 1991, even though the official total put out by the Japan Frozen Food Association (JFFA), based on domestic production plus frozen vegetable imports, was only 1.49 million.

Vegetable imports, which soared 26.8% in 1991 to 387,022 tons, have always been factored into domestic consumption. But JFFA Managing Director Yoshiharu Yamada told Quick Frozen Foods International recently that, "besides that, there are imports of frozen prepared food from various countries."

Apparently there is a time lag in reporting such imports, with figures coming from the Ministry of Health and Welfare (vegetable import figures are released more quickly by the Ministry of Finance). At any rate, advised Yamada, the latest available statistics on prepared frozen foods are from 1989; based on that, he estimates the total in 1991 was at least 70,000 tons. The largest prepared FF category in 1989 was broiled eels from Taiwan at 23,702 tons; others were all pretty small, such as fried fish (3,027 tons) and pie (2,409).

Japanese consumption of frozen foods, excluding those prepared FF imports and any other items that may go untracked, was valued at 676.6 billion yen in 1991, up 7.8% from the 627.4 billion reported for 1990. Since tonnage consumption rose 12.2% from 1,330,573 to 1,493,092, that meant prices were soft - and the places they were softest were imported vegetables and fishery products. Valuation of imported vegetables was up only 7.5% to 64.5 billion yen, despite the 26.8% tonnage increase - a bumper crop and resulting low prices for U.S. vegetables was obviously the primary factor. Frozen fishery products fell in value by 1.7% to 83.7 billion yen, even though tonnage was up 6.2% to 90,969. There was even a slight drop in prices for prepared food - the heart of the industry - for which tonnage was up 9.4% to 863,016, but value only 8.7% to 466.7 billion yen.

Catering sales have always dominated the Japanese FF market, but that domination is accelerating. Domestic frozen food production for institutional use increased 9.2% to 844,766 tons during 1991, whereas production for retail use was up only 3.8% to 261,304. This means that catering now accounts for 76.4% of the entire market, vs. 75.4% in 1990 and 74.9% in 1989. Yamada credits "the remarkable expansion of side dishes [and the] delicatessen market in recent years" for this trend, and considers the institutional market a "good customer for frozen food today in Japan." A combination of popular small neighborhood food stores and small households with little space for frozen food will apparently continue to retard the expansion of the retail market.

Looking at individual categories (all domestically produced), the biggest increases in 1991 were registered by the basics. In prepared foods, for example, rice was up 28.5% to 80,980 tons, noodles 49.6% to 62,023 and spring rolls 21.7% to 17,337. In seafood, the only specific item to show an increase at all made a spectacular showing - up 33.8% to 22,903 tons ("Other fishery products" were up 112% to 8,819.). But the valuation for squid was up only 16.9%, while valuations were up 20.7% for the rice, 36.2% for the noodles and 20.3% for the spring rolls. In the potato products category, production advanced 8.2% to 17,265 tons for "other" products, whereas production for french fries was actually off 14.7% to 18,075 (But french fries dominated imports; the U.S. shipped 116,381 tons during 1991, vs. 6,159 tons of "other" potato products.) Prices were up for both categories, with valuation up 21.9% for "other" potato products and down only 6.8% for fries. Frozen meat, albeit from a small base, showed an impressive 54.6% increase, to 14,860 tons, but valuation rose more slowly at 50.2%
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Title Annotation:Japan Frozen Food Association report
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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