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It reaches a length of 103 cm (41 in) and a weight of 9.1 kg (20 lb).

Oversupply is causing bastard halibut prices to plummet

Click on the flag for more information about South Korea SOUTH KOREA
Friday, November 08, 2019, 01:00 (GMT + 9)

Korea is suffering from a olive flounder, bastard halibut or Japanese halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus)  glut, as a dramatic oversupply of the popular fish has forced prices to plummet across the country.

Cultivated Japanese halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus) 

The price of bastard halibut, which is a popular choice for sashimi, has fallen to KRW 8,000 per kilogram (USD 3 per pound), well below the production cost of around KRW 10,000, as of Oct. 28. In October 2017, the wholesale price of Jeju halibut was KRW 17,000 per kilogram.

One major reason behind the bastard halibut oversupply is the tightened quarantine of imported fish by Japanese authorities. Japan recently tightened measures saying it needs to increase the size of samples analyzed to eradicate kudoa septempunctata, which causes food poisoning. From June, 40 percent of Korean halibut has been subject to quarantine, compared to 20 percent in the past.

Parasite Kudoa septempunctata in olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) muscles ►

According to the Korea Customs Service, exports of flatfish to Japan in September fell by 24 percent on year to USD 1.81 million. Japan is the major buyer of Korean halibut, accounting for roughly 80 percent of bastard  halibut exports.

Another driver of the bastard halibut sales decline is the growing popularity of other fish products, like salmon.

After bastard halibut started being cultivated en masse in Korea from the 1990s, sashimi made out of halibut became popular for its relatively cheap price. However, with the widely touted health benefits of salmon, halibut demand started to fall.

Salmon import volume increased by 37 percent from 27,000 tons in 2016 to 37,000 tons last year. According to retail chain Emart, revenue from slices of raw salmon, or salmon sashimi, from January through September this year jumped by 40 percent on year, while bastard halibut sashimi sales fell 18 percent during the same period.

Emart bastard halibut sashimi grade

The Jeju Special Self-Governing Province announced last month that it will inject emergency funds to help fish farms deal with the oversupply problem.

The fund of roughly KRW 1.4 billion (USD 1.2 million) contains money from the Jeju government, as well as fish farms and the island’s federation of fisheries cooperatives. The Jeju government said it will use the funds to purchase 200 tons of midsized bastard halibut - weighing between 400 and 600 grams (between 0.88 and 1.32 pounds) each - from 359 halibut farms in the island and dispose of them to reduce supplies.

The reason for the large financial commitment is because industry insiders expect sluggish sales of bastard halibut to drag on until next year. Disposing of halibut before they grow larger - up to about a kilogram each - is the last measure fish farms can take to adjust supplies for next year.

Jeju fish farm of bastar halibut

To help bastard halibut farmers, the Jeju government has been mulling various plans including increasing the supply to the Korean army. The local government signed a deal to supply 198 tons of farmed halibut to the Korean military, which is a 70 percent increase from last year.

Bastard halibut farmed in Jeju accounts for about 60 percent of local supplies.

Despite falling demand for bastard halibut, cultivation of the fish has been on the increase thanks to the development of farming technology.

Emart offer of bastar halibut sashimi grade

Local retailers are also actively looking to promote bastard halibut.

Emart sold roughly 450 grams of bastard halibut sashimi at a 40 percent discounted price of KRW 23,500, rather than KRW 39,800, until Wednesday. The discount event was planned jointly by fish farms and the retailer.

Author: Kwak Jae-Min /Korea Joongang Daily


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