Lifting of ban on smoked tuna products in Japan sought

“We hope our government can work out the reentry of local frozen filtered smoked tuna in Japan because these are safe products,” Rock Garay, an owner of a tuna company here that uses the filtered smoke technology, said.

“The ban has been very long already,” he stressed, adding it has hampered the growth of the sector.

The frozen filtered smoked tuna sector accounts for at least $50 million in annual exports and provides employment to about 80,000 workers, processors and fishermen nationwide.

Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing And Allied Industries, Inc., said the reopening of the Japanese market would further improve the Philippine tuna industry and strengthen the dollar inflows to the country.

“We hope that Japan would heed our demand to reopen its market for frozen filtered smoked tuna products,” he said.

“We lost a good market in Japan with the ban on our products. We could have earned more million of dollars if we are allowed to export filtered smoked tuna products there,” he added.

Tan said the concerns of the sector have been brought before the attention of national government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Recently tuna industry players here approved a resolution asking the government to immediately work out the re-entry of smoked tuna products in Japan as well as in the European Union.

In late August, Trade Secretary Peter Favila met with Japan’s Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai at the sidelines of the Asian Economic Ministers where he pushed Manila’s request for Tokyo to reconsider its ban on local frozen filtered smoked tuna products.

Favila reported that Japan did not give guarantees of reconsideration although he expressed optimism the request would be given a fair hearing by Japanese health officials.

The ban started when the Japan Kouseisho (Department of Health and Welfare) implemented restrictions on the importation, production and sale of frozen smoked tuna, hamachi (yellowtail) and tilapia in 1997 due to health reasons.

According to the Kouseisho, these products contain carbon monoxide that allegedly prevents color-deterioration in red meat fish species, making consumers err on their perception of the freshness of fish meat.

Garay told MindaNews that while Japan banned the importation of frozen smoked tuna, several Japanese companies continue to produce and process hamachi using the same method and export them to other countries in large volumes.

He noted that in the United States, smoked tuna products from the Philippines are allowed to come in. (MindaNews)