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2011 March 30 - April 5 TOP3 [TOKYO]

Behind the plan to move fish market from Tsukiji to Toyosu

April 4, 2011
Akahata on April 4 ran an interview with Mikuni Hidemi, a professor emeritus of Hiroshima University regarding the controversial plan to transfer Tokyo’s fish market from Tsukiji to a soil-polluted location in Toyosu.

Why was the relocation of the fish market planned?
Behind the plan is a national policy to reorganize, abolish, or merge wholesale markets. According to the agriculture and fisheries ministry’s policy, the government is interested in developing a hub marketplace equipped with a large-scale distribution center that covers wider areas than the present market. The transfer of the Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu is part of this policy. In other words, it is the infrastructure-building policy for the major food industry to take advantage of possible trade liberalization schemes such as the TPP.

In present wholesale markets, a so-called “negotiation trade” makes up the majority of the deals in which leading mass retailers and the restaurant industry, which have far-reaching chains of establishments, order intermediary wholesalers in advance to buy a large volume of food within certain standards at certain prices. If a new market is constructed, it will increase arrivals of foodstuffs from major producers and import firms, and the leading mass retailers will purchase the products in bulk and will ship them to their chain stores directly from a market’s pickup-delivery center. In order to facilitate this type of a business practice, trade regulations have already been eased to a large extent.

The plan is to meet the need of leading mass retailers who pursue cost reduction and are looking for a more efficient logistics system and growth of e-commerce trading.

Will there be any impact on general consumers?
Now with local fish dealers and greengrocers on the verge of disappearing, 70% of food products are bought by mass retailers and supermarkets. These retail stores as well as the chain restaurant industry seem to be winning the present competition, but they are actually struggling to survive a price war. Therefore, they will increase pressures on production areas and producers to lower prices. The price-cutting competition will expand the import of food products, leading to a further decline in the national food self-sufficiency rate.

Middle traders in the Tsukiji fish market instantly judge the quality of a wide variety of fresh food. They can spot food fraud and determine food safety from their long years of experience. However, associated with the relocation of the Tsukiji market, the number of these middle traders will be cut. This will increase the possibility that food safety and local food culture will disappear.

What should be done?
The aforementioned ministry’s policy requires the location of a wholesale market to be appropriate to food sanitation and safety. The Toyosu location chosen for the relocation is contaminated with toxic chemicals and does not meet this basic requirement in the first place. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government should cancel the plan to transfer the Tsukiji market to Toyosu and use Tokyo residents’ tax money for improvements and proper maintenance of aging equipment at the Tsukiji market.
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