Japan, here we come: flights open

by Netani Rika | 7 December 2017 | News

Children fishing - copyright Francisco Blaha

By NETANI RIKA, Pasay City, Philippines

DIRECT flights from Fiji to Japan are expected to boost sales of tuna from the Pacific and create larger profits for regional exporters.

Fiji Airways is expected to announce the resumption of its Narita flights on Wednesday.

In 2009 Fiji’s national carrier withdrew its service to Japan, citing a downturn in the tourism market.

The news of the resumption was greeted with enthusiasm at the 14th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting today (Monday).

Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Sanaila Naqali, described the Narita service – due to start in mid-2018 – as critical to the industry.

“Direct flights should translate into lower costs for Fijian exporters so that is good news,” Naqali said.

“Access – and we mean affordable access – to key markets is an absolute necessity for a successful export operation.

“There are a number of Pacific countries which will now be able to send their product through Fiji for transportation to Japan. So it’s good for the region as a whole.”

Naqali said new strategies – including transport links and cost-effective business plans were essential if the tuna industry for Fiji and the Pacific is to remain viable.

Until 2009 tuna loins were exported from Fiji on the (then) Air Pacific service to the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

When the service was withdrawn, most of the tuna export traffic was picked up by Air New Zealand which uplifts freight from Nadi and transfers it to Tokyo through its Auckland hub.

Since then Kiribati has brought its national processing plant on-line in Tarawa and exports loins to the European Union. Most of this product is flown by Solomon Airlines which recently introduced flights to Tarawa from Honiara with onward connections to Brisbane.

Last month Fiji Airways began a campaign in the Japanese tourism industry to create awareness of its plans to operate the Narita route.

The First Secretary of the Fiji Embassy in Japan, Isikeli Nadolo, said the airline held a seminar in Tokyo for industry representatives.

“This is in anticipation of the direct flight, creating awareness and making the necessary connections and network with the people in the travel and tourism industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japanese seafood imports declined in the first half of 2017 on the back of rising costs of the product.

In the first six months of 2017, Japan imported $USD6.2billion worth of seafood – an increase of eight per cent over the same period in 2016, according to International Trade Center.

But import volumes declined by 2.8 per cent over the period to 380,883 metric tons.

The decreased tonnage and increased value of imports has been due to rising cost of fishing licences in the Pacific.