As Tokyo plans to discharge treated radioactive wastewater into the sea, Japanese restaurant operator Sam Lam is busy finding substitutes for Japanese seafood that could soon be banned from entering Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong government said last Wednesday that the city would immediately bar the import of aquatic products from 10 Japanese prefectures if wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant is released into the Pacific Ocean.
Lam said his team could get seafood from other sources and change menus to adjust to the ban, but he predicted that revenues could nevertheless drop from 10% to 20% if the Japanese and Hong Kong governments press ahead with their plans.
“My customers told me that once the water is discharged, they will eat fewer (aquatic products) or stop eating them,” he said in an interview Friday.
Wong said the city’s Japanese restaurants could find substitute seafood products from other regions, but they may not share the same level of prestige, and that could mar a restaurant’s image or make customers feel that the food is less authentic.
“After moving past the pandemic, businesses were hoping that crisis is a thing of the past already. They don’t know if this incident will bring another crisis,” he said.
Christine Huang, who imports Japanese food from outside the 10 prefectures targeted in the potential ban, remembered the pain in 2011.
Consumer worries triggered by the Fukushima accident led to her company’s revenues being halved for a period of two to three months, said Huang, the director at Best Quality Food. Workers at her company were forced to take unpaid leave, she added.
Oyster shop owner Wilson Lau, who sells shellfish from Miyagi, said he was not bothered. “Fresh oysters also exist in many countries,” said Lau, who is director of the HK Oyster Concern Group. “Even if consumers do not eat Japanese oysters, they can eat other types of oysters.”
At about Friday’s noon at Sam Lam’s Japanese restaurant, fewer customers were ordering sashimi than usual. Of about 10 meal sets Lam checked, only one was sashimi, he said.