The Japanese government plans to promote exports of fugu to Asian countries targeting the growing number of wealthy consumers in China and other Asian countries. Fugu is a puffer fish variety which has become a traditional luxury food item in Japan.
Fugu, or puffer fish, are rarely sold in overseas markets due to the toxic poison they contain, but the government is aiming to make the product a big seller among the country's agricultural and marine exports. The government has set a goal of attaining Yen 1 trillion (US$9.03 billion) in exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products by 2019 and it is capitalising on promoting fugu exports to accelerate the growth.
Fugu has poison in various parts of the body, such as its skin and testis, depending on the species. In Japan, a licensing system for cooking fugu has been established. Very few countries in the world eat fugu due to inadequate knowledge of how to remove the poison.
According to Japanís Fisheries Agency, many countries prohibit imports and domestic sales of fugu. Currently, the US, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore import fugu from Japan. Some countries limit the kind of fugu species that are eligible for import to torafugu tiger puffer. Others have regulations allowing imports of fugu "meat" only after the skin, internal organs and other poisonous parts have been removed.
Japanís combined domestic production of natural and artificial fugu was 8,470 tonnes in 2016, but within that figure, exports were very small, according to a senior official of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. A government source said that tasty exotic Japanese food is very popular among wealthy people in foreign countries and great demand for fugu is expected. With Japanese food becoming popular recently in China, local Japanese restaurants have started serving fugu dishes. China officially approved the domestic distribution of fugu last year, but has yet to approve imports of the fish.
To export fugu to China from Japan, the government plans to to negotiate with China's food sanitation authorities to have them recognise the safety of the fish and other elements.