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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 - April 2007

April 2007's marine product stockpile figures were released today by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (Japanese PDF format, Excel format). As usual, I've extracted the figures specific to whale meat...

April 2007 outgoing stock: 464 tonnes

The clamps have come down on consumption now in the wake of the Nisshin Maru fire accident in February that cut the JARPA expedition short. As was the case in March, April's outgoing figure of 464 tonnes was down to 83% of that of the same month in 2006. However, April 2007's figure represents increases on years prior to that (133% and 178% of the April 2005, and April 2004 figures respectively).

Given that wholesalers will have been anticipating lower whale meat supply in 2007 compared to 2006, this figure is not particularly surprising.

Nonetheless, the 464 tonne outgoing stock volume is only about 60% or thereabouts of the recent 12-month moving average volume (around 750 tonnes per month).

From a supply perspective there is a clear reason why whale meat consumption tends to be slower during the first 6 months of the year as compared with the latter 6 months of the year. The whale meat by-product from the research programmes, which makes up the majority of supply to the market, is sold during the second half of the year. The 2007 JARPA by-product sale will be conducted between June 25 and July 25. In a recent blog post (in Japanese), Geishoku Labo stated that "most products are almost out of stock", due to the apparent popularity of whale meat products in the second half of 2006, and 2007 JARPA by-product supply being significantly less than last year. As such Geishoku Labo predicts that there will be a "sense of stock shortage" until this October when the by-product of the in progress JARPN programme becomes available.

Out of interest, I grouped the outgoing whale stock volume figures by the months of January to June and compared with volumes from July to December. The volume of outgoing stock in the first half of the year was between 58% and 63% of the volume that left stock in the second half of the year for all years that figures are available on the Ministry's web page (i.e., 58.2% in 2004, 63.3% in 2005, and 58.1% in 2006).

As such, the May 2007 outgoing stock figure is also likely to be around the same level as this April figure, but we can expect to see a jump in outgoing volume during June and July, with the JARPA by-product sale taking place then. Incidentally, last year's JARPA by-product sale took place for a month starting on the 3rd of July, so June 2006's outgoing volume was also relatively small, but assuming the stock is shipped after the first few days of the JARPA auctions, the story should be slightly different this year.

April 2007 incoming stock: 278 tonnes

As I imagined last month, it appears that all of the JARPA by-product was reflected in the March stockpile figures, as we can see with this relatively small amount of incoming supply. In 2006, the by-product was reflected in both March and April's incoming stock figures.

April 2007 overall stockpile movement: Down 186 to 4,404 tonnes

This month end April stockpile figure is only 74% of the amount of whale meat held in stock at the same time last year (due to the lower JARPA supply). Put in real terms, the stockpile is 1,565 tonnes less than the size of the stockpile at the same time last year. Interestingly, the JARPA by-product supply of 2,105.1 tonnes in 2007 (ICR press release) is 1330.7 less than the 3435.8 tonnes that were available as JARPA by-product in 2006.

The average yield per Antarctic minke whale (*1) was 4021 kg in 2007 versus 3714 kg in 2006, which explains some of this difference.

Graph: Annual volumes

As with March, outgoing stock volume for the first 4 months of 2007 (2,796 tonnes) remains higher than the first 4 months of 2006 (2,375 tonnes), but also as expected incoming stock volume for the first 4 months of 2007 (3,296 tonnes) is significantly lower (32%) than incoming stock volume from January to April 2006 (4,832 tonnes).

In May the gap between the YTD outgoing stock volume and incoming stock volume should narrow once again, and in June / July the YTD outgoing stock volume will likely jump ahead of incoming stock volume quite significantly.

Graph: Monthly stockpile movements

Nothing to add to this picture this month.

Graph: 12-month moving averages

The outgoing stock 12-month moving average is now clearly leveling out, and the incoming stock figure also came down sharply as predicted.

This is significant as it illustrates that the recent level of whale meat consumption, indicated by outgoing stock volume, is running at a higher rate than the market is being supplied with. The outgoing stock 12-month moving average can now only decrease over the coming months, to adjust to the lower level of supply available.

Still, next month, the outgoing stock 12-month moving average is almost certain to remain above that of the incoming stock 12-month moving average, although with supply constricted until the end of June, the outgoing average will probably head south a little further yet.

Graph: Regional whale meat stockpiles

No really big movements in the regional stockpiles in this month's figures, but a summary of the top 7 stockpile location movements in April 2007 is below (previous month's level in parenthesis):

1. Tokyo wards: Down 66 to 2,270 tonnes (2,336)
2. Ishinomaki: Down 37 to 488 tonnes (525)
3. Hakodate: Down 12 to 454 tonnes (466)
4. Kushiro: Down 20 to 269 tonnes (289)
5. Osaka: Down 22 to 239 tonnes (261)
6. Kanazawa: Down 4 to 228 tonnes (232)
7. Shimonoseki: Up 7 to 124 tonnes (117)

The top 7 whale meat stockpile locations thus held 4,072 tonnes (92.5%, up 0.5% compared to March) of the total April month end stock figure, and of that, the 2,105 tonnes of JARPA by-product is not available for sale until the end of June. Therefore effectively the amount of stock available for sale between the end of April and end of June is only 1,967 tonnes. When one considers that the recent 12-month moving average outgoing volume figure stands at around 750 tonnes per month, there is only somewhere between 2 and 3 months supply left available.

These tight supply conditions may be putting upward pressure on retail prices.

Also, while 464 tonnes were recorded as having left stockpiles during the month of April, the sum of the decreases in regional stock levels (as above) is only 161 tonnes, so presumably while levels went down, incoming stock from other sources offset this.

* * *

May figures will be released on July 11.

* * *

(*1) Remember Junko Sakuma's supposition that the JARPA research fleet had dumped hundreds of tonnes of whale meat at sea, in order to try to make sense of her faulty assumptions about average meat yield from Antarctic minke whales being constant from year to year? If you have forgotten, or missed it at the time, you can read my piece on it here. I imagine Sakuma's anti-whaling group IKAN will make no mention of this on their homepage, just as Sakuma and IKAN have been silent regarding recent increases in whale meat consumption. A credible NGO would admit it when their predictions and forecasts proved to be wrong, but a successful anti-whaling campaign is based only on throwing enough mud on the assumption that some of it might stick.

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