Traditional Japanese food feels impact of Russia sanctions

Sushi ingredients becoming pricey and scarce

Japan’s sushi restaurants are seeing a spike in seafood prices because of sanctions the country imposed on Russia, Nikkei Asia reported this week.

One of the pricier sushi ingredients, crab, has become 20% more expensive in the last two weeks, the outlet reports, citing a fish merchant in Tokyo, who said that “the scramble for crab has just begun.” The market trader lamented the rising crab prices, as well as the disappearance of Russian sea urchin from the market.

A restaurateur in Hokkaido also told Nikkei Asia that they were forced to review the menu “in consideration of the soaring prices for marine products” due to sanctions against Russia and to other issues, such as algae blooms in the sea that hamper fishing and lead to problems securing raw ingredients for sushi. Some 60% of Japan’s imported crab comes from Russia, according to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, as do nearly 10% of its salmon and over 7% of its cod.

Japan is the fourth biggest buyer of Russian fish and seafood, according to the Russian Federal Customs service. In 2021 the country imported nearly three times more Russian produce than it had the year before, totaling 67,000 tons and worth over half a billion dollars. Crab imports from Russia totaled $41 million.

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Japan unveils new Russia sanctions

Japan joined the US, Europe and other countries to hit Russia with a raft of unprecedented sanctions over the war in Ukraine. The assets of dozens of Russian organizations and individuals were frozen, Russian banks were cut off from the SWIFT payment system, and government permits were introduced for payment and capital transactions with individuals and entities on the sanctions list. Japanese credit card company JCB Corp. said on Tuesday it will suspend its operations in Russia following a similar decision by US credit card firms Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Japan is also considering barring Russian flights from its airspace in step with Western nations, but, according to a Wednesday report in The Japan Times newspaper, critics in the government fear that such a ban could prompt Russia to introduce countermeasures that would have a serious impact on Japan’s distribution networks.

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