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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 inventory update - February 2009

Took some time to get to this, but here's your February whale meat inventory update, based on the recent February release of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products".

February 2009 outgoing stock: 249 tons

Another measly month on the outgoing stock front, just 249 tons leaving storage. We have to go back to 2004 or thereabouts to find such a weak figure. The figure here is just 50% of the volume for the prior year month.

That said, large fluctuations versus the prior year month are common occurrences for whale, and indeed we may see a relatively large outgoing stock figure for March when those figures are announced.

The weak outgoing figures (and see total inventory below as well) have seen the whale inventory ratio index increase in the past couple of months.

Will February be just another spike, or is there a short term weakness in demand for relatively expensive whale products due to these times of economic turmoil?

February 2009 incoming stock: 101 tons

This figure is fairly typical for a February, although slightly lower (81%) than for the prior year period.

The JARPA II fleet returned to port in Shimonoseki some days ago; the stock offloaded there will not appear in the statistics until the April figures are released around June 10.

February 2009 end-of-month inventories: 2,819 tons

Below 3,000 tons again for February (and subsequent March figures should mark the low point for inventory in 2009), but a slight increase versus the same period in the prior year.

Inventories were 2% higher than at the end of February 2008, but relatively speaking are at quite low levels.

February 2009 top inventory regions

The table below shows whale inventory movements in the leading inventory regions.

Stockpile size at
month end
Stockpile size at
previous month end
Tokyo city wards1,2671,323-56

No remarkable changes but we see that Sasebo (in the Kyushu region, where whale is said to be most popular in Japan) pops into the list this month, while Hakodate drops out of the top 7.

Graph: Annual volumes

Two months gone, but it looks like a slow start to 2009.

Graph: Monthly volumes

But then there is a relatively low level of inventory at the present time.

Graph: Outgoing stock (cumulative)

Rejigged this graph from 2008 a little, and might change the colours for the 2009 line as time goes by. In any case the slow start to 2009 is clear from this picture.

Graph: Incoming stock (cumulative)

Just a typical start to 2009 from the incoming stock perspective however.

Graph: Regional whale meat inventories

The top blue line is the overall inventory level, and the lines below that are the inventories per region. Tokyo and Ishinomaki are the top two, while Funabashi maintains it's mysterious stock of static whale again this month.

* * *

March figures are set to be released on the 8th of May, and I'll have another update for you then.

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