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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 - May 2009

The May inventory stats were released yesterday, from the usual source at the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.

Through the first 4 months of 2009, outgoing inventory volumes were the lowest they have been in some years. Although inventory was at relatively low levels, things were looking distinctively sluggish with just 1287 tons recorded leaving storage facilities up until the end of April.

Meanwhile incoming inventory volumes have been keeping pace with more recent years - roughly between the volumes seen in 2007 and 2008 (although no where near the volumes recorded in 2006).

May sees somewhat of a turnaround as I'll introduce below, and an announcement from the ICR of reduced prices for whale meat by-products from the JARPA II programme may provide a boost, but with both the global and local Japanese economic recoveries looking shaky in recent weeks, one expects that 2009 will turn out to be a relatively poor year for whale meat demand.

May 2009 outgoing stock: 654 tons

The 654 tons of outgoing inventory itself is very high for a May month. The statistics released record this as 141% of the volume for the same month in the prior year. Additionally, figures dating back to 2001 show this as actually being the top May on record. I suspect there may be a bit of "catch-up" here due the recent low outgoing volumes.

On a cumulative basis, at the end of May 2009, the year to date outgoing inventory volume recorded comes to 1,941 tons, roughly the same level as 2005 (the year prior to the first year of JARPA II and the associated increase in whale meat availability).

May 2009 incoming stock: 146 tons

The 146 tons of incoming volume is a drop from March and April which saw influxes of whale meat into Tokyo and Shimonoseki storage facilities. Nothing spectacular for a typical May.

May 2009 end-of-month inventories: 4,292 tons

A large net decrease in inventory during May, but versus the time in 2008, inventories were approximately 17% larger.

The ICR announcement notes that of 2,655 tons of research programme whale meat by-product from the recent JARPA II cruise, 2,221.5 tons are to be made available to general markets from July 7 through August 10. As such, more than half of the inventory held at the end of May can be accounted for by new product that was not yet available for consumers.

Note also, that the 2009 JARPA II by-product volume of 2,655 tons dwarfs the volume from 2008 of 1982.5 tons, so relatively one would expect inventory levels to be greater at this time in 2009 than in 2008.

May 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 wards2,9423,023-81

Ishinomaki was the big mover in May, shipping 396 tons out of storage facilities. The other interesting thing in May was that for exactly the first time in a year, Funabashi inventory dipped below 300 tons. Funabashi was the only stockpile region where inventory levels had been holding relatively static, just above 300 tons. I suspect that there was something special about these 300 or so tons of product, but this sort of detail is unlikely to be elucidated through any readily available sources such as news media.

Graph: Inventory ratio

The spike has ended for now.

Graph: Annual volumes

Graph: Monthly volumes

Graph: Outgoing stock (cumulative)

Graph: Incoming stock (cumulative)

Graph: Regional whale meat inventories

* * *

June figures are set for release on August 10.



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