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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Whale meat stockpile update for January 2007 figures

It's that time of month again! Today, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries published the January 2007 figures for the volume of marine products in cold storage (in Japanese PDF format, M$ Excel format). The whale meat stockpile graphs I've been maintaining are updated below for these latest figures.

Quickly recapping from last month's update for December 2006 figures:
... but on with the show - here is the first month of figures and graphs for 2007.

January 2007 outgoing stock: 1,001 tonnes

The 1,001 tonnes of outgoing stock in January 2007 continues the strong consumption trend that has been prevalent over the winter months.

The figure is:

January 2007 incoming stock: 462 tonnes

Pretty big for January - 209% higher than in the same month last year. I'm not sure what the story is here.

January 2007 overall stockpile movement: Down 539 tonnes to 3,365

This figure represents
Here's some more context for this figure:
A press release last year from the ICR stated that:
... supply to the market is kept under tight control and drip fed to ensure that whale meat is available in selected areas throughout the entire year.

"Demand always exceeds supply. At any given time, there will be an amount of whale meat in storage to ensure supply is always available..."
The official figures appear to reconcile with these statements.

Graph: Annual volumes
This graph is just the same as last month but now with the first month of figures for 2007 added.

The fatal fire accident on the Nisshin Maru which ultimately saw the JARPA II programme called off in February prior to completion is likely to result in a reduction in overall supply in 2007. This will almost certainly see the 2007 outgoing stock figures come in below the figures for 2006 as well, as outgoing stock is obviously capped by whatever volume of supply is available.

Kristjan Loftsson's commercial whaling operation is possibly going to export a few hundred tonnes of whale meat product to the Japanese market later this year, but the volume they have available is very small at this stage, and not likely to make a significant impact this year.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements
Note that while the peak stockpile size has increased, the steeper slope of the stockpile line for the 2006 months illustrates the increasing rate of consumption. The stockpile looks set to bottom out at just below 3,000 tonnes in 2007, as it has done in recent years.

Graph: 12-month moving averages:
The information that Junko Sakuma didn't want you to see - the increasing consumption trend in recent years remains evident, with the big increase in supply since the return of JARPA II last year now almost completely cancelled out.

With no supply increase expected in 2007, the increasing trends illustrated here are likely to level out over the next couple of months, and probably decrease slightly given the likelihood of lower supply in 2007 than in 2006.

Graph: Cumulative volume:
This graphs shows a similar thing as the previous graph. The gap between supply and consumption over the last 12 months was just a fraction of the outgoing stock volume figure for January 2007, and smaller than the amount of meat supplied in typical off-season month.

When we see the February figures next month they are likely to indicate that consumption from March 2006 to February 2007 exceeded supply over the same 12 month period.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles:
The biggest drops in stock levels last month occurred in Kanazawa, Hakodate and Kushiro. The top 7 locations shown here for January 2007 account for around 84% of all whale meat in stock. You can't see it very well in this graph, but Nagasaki (with 77 tonnes) replaced Shimonoseki at the bottom of January's top 7.

Kagoshima had been slated as the 2007 port of return for the Nisshin Maru, but due to the fire disaster is now apparently returning to Tokyo for inspections and repairs instead. Some of the whale meat by-products from the shortened season will thus presumably be landed in Tokyo - maybe all of it if the Oriental Bluebird is also headed here.

* * *

An amusingly backwards statement in the Australian media today:

Greenpeace chief executive Steve Shallhorn said the Japanese people were the key to ending whaling, because whale meat consumption was continuing to drop in Japan.

"Japanese people are voting with their forks," Mr Shallhorn told reporters.

Shallhorn's suggestion that whale meat is losing popularity makes for a very easily contradicted null hypothesis.

But what is wackiest is that Shallhorn appears to think that if people have no desire to eat a certain type of food, they will strive to prevent others from eating it as well.

I don't think kind of thinking is particularly prevalent amongst Japanese consumers (and I also think that Japanese food connoisseurs vote with their chopsticks, not their forks).


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