Okinawan sea grapes become a brand product

Okinawan sea grapes become a brand product

At the Onna Fisheries Cooperative, Kazuya Oshiro (far right), executive director of the Sea Grapes Producers Council working to make sea grapes produced in Okinawa into a new brand, and others involved in the initiative.

August 22, 2012 Ryo Akamine of Ryukyu Shimpo

Seeking to establish a stable production and sales structure for sea grapes produced in Okinawa, in mid-September the Sea Grapes Producers Council, which is made up of 140 individuals and organizations involved in the production of sea grapes, will make sea grapes into a brand. This will be done by attaching a sticker to the packaging that specifies the area of production and the quality of the product. The council will carefully select marketable sea grapes that are ripe for eating and firm. To add momentum to promotion activities, from August new members joined the council to officially work on this project.

The council will box sea grapes at facilities that have passed Okinawa Prefectural Government food hygiene inspections, and establish safety standards such as regularly checking for the spread of bacteria. The council aims to set a stable price and to expand the market by making safe and high-quality sea grapes produced in Okinawa into a brand.

The council was scheduled to sell certified products from last April but that was postponed. It started the projects up again because the sales volume of sea grapes has remained restrained despite production increasing year by year. Sea grapes produced in Okinawa are popular in the main islands of Japan, but those from the Philippines have started to become available to consumers at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. The council wants to highlight the difference between the origin of the sea grapes by turning those produced in Okinawa into a brand.

According to information gleaned from a questionnaire submitted to members of the council, production volume of sea grapes increased from 213 tons to 280 tons during the period from 2006 to 2010. At the same time, the price dropped from about 300 yen per 100 grams to about 230 yen.

Kazuya Oshiro, the executive director of the council said, “I want information to be shared among the members. The council aims to protect the livelihood of the producers of sea grapes by buying products from individual producers, and selling them at a stable price.” Oshiro went on to say, “We are considering expanding the market to the prefectures that are not so familiar with Okinawa. We are trying to move beyond the Tokyo metropolitan area, where sea grapes produced in Okinawa are already available. We also want to do our bit to add vitality to Okinawan tourism.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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