Hong Kong's Japanese stores feel the pinch

Shops and restaurants in sushi-mad Hong Kong, one of Japan's key food export markets, have been hit badly by the radiation scare with shoppers and diners deserting Japanese produce en masse.

Well-heeled consumers in the city are normally willing to pay a premium for food imported from Japan, deeming it less likely to be affected by food safety scandals that have rocked mainland China, for example, in recent years.

But with the Chinese territory on Wednesday becoming the first Asian economy to slap an import ban on a variety of Japanese food after radiation was found in vegetables from Japan, consumers were shopping elsewhere.

The ban applies to dairy products, fruit and vegetables from five prefectures near the Fukushima No 1. nuclear plant, which was hit by a powerful quake and tsunami on March 11, followed by a series of explosions and fires.

Supermarkets that are usually popular with Western and Japanese expatriates as well as wealthier local Chinese consumers were markedly less busy Thursday.

Japanese chains APITA and Jusco, as well as Japanese restaurants in the city were all quiet, despite hefty discounts on fruits and vegetables imported before the ban came into effect, with shoppers showing little interest.

"For sure I will avoid buying Japanese products - like vegetables, mushrooms and fish," Jane Shum, a retiree in her 50s told AFP.

"Even here, businesses are affected a great deal, look, no one is buying Japanese products" she said, gesturing to the relatively empty supermarket.

The upmarket stores, which offer everything from air-freighted sushi lunchboxes to perfectly formed fruit at eye-wateringly high prices, were facing a very swift reversal in fortunes.

Housewife Irene Wong said she would avoid any Japanese food.

"I am definitely choosing food products from places other than Japan," said the 65-year-old, adding "there are plenty of choices out there".

The city's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department ordered the ban Wednesday after vegetable samples arriving from Japan showed traces of radioactive iodine as much as 10 times above recommended levels.

Meat, poultry and seafood imports will also be banned unless first given safety clearance from Japanese officials, the Hong Kong government has said.

A potential ban on fish and seafood will be a particularly harsh blow for restaurants in Hong Kong, a teeming city of seven million.

Fears across the city also sparked calls to implement a wider ban on food imports from Japan, with a lawmaker saying all food imports close to the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant should be stopped.

"Japan's standards are different from ours - even if the food imports pass their safety inspection, it doesn't mean the food is really safe," Fred Li, a member of the Food Safety Panel in the city's lawmaking body, told AFP.

According to Li, business for Japanese restaurants and supermarkets have plummeted by up to 40 percent, with sushi outlets suffering the most.

"Businesses are trying to source from places outside of Japan, but the reality is, business will suffer for weeks to come," he said.

Hong Kong imported about HK$5.7 billion ($730 million) worth of food from Japan last year, according to official figures.

Besides Hong Kong, the United States, Australia and Singapore are among leading markets to have banned certain Japanese food imports.

France has urged the European Union to introduce "systematic controls" on Japanese food, while South Korea said it was considering banning food shipments from areas near the quake-damaged plant.



Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

    Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

    Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities