Japan's biggest seafood companies saw mixed results in the first half of the fiscal year ending March 2020.

Market prices for tuna, varying degrees of success in aquaculture operations and flat performance in the companies' wild-catch segments created ups and downs for Maruha Nichiro, Nippon Suisan (Nissui), Kyokuyo, Nichirei and Toyo Suisan.

Low tuna prices, sluggish China sales hit Maruha Nichiro profits

Lower market prices hit Maruha Nichiro's profits, which declined despite an increase in revenues across its seafood trading companies. This was largely attributed to low tuna prices and sluggish sales of high-end seafood to China.

The company's overseas businesses posted a profit of JPY 1.8 billion (€14.4 million/$16.2 million) in the first half, with the exception of the company's North American units, which saw a decrease of JPY 1.6 billion (€12.8 million/$14.4 million), due in part to lower volumes of crab in Eastern Canada and decreased sales volumes of salmon.

Supplies of local seafood declined, but catches across the company's New Zealand fleet were strong. The company's Thai pet food business grew its profits thanks to improved operational efficiency from increased automation of its processes.

Nissui boosted by Chilean salmonid business

Nippon Suisan (Nissui) saw a 4.9 percent increase in operating profit in the first half bolstered by its Chilean salmonid business, but sales fell due to a change in the transaction format of its chilled business.

The company's salmon farming business, Salmones Antartica, recovered from the die-off of fry last year, and sales volume recovered. Prices were also steady, leading to a hike of JPY 3 billion (€24 million/$27 million) in earnings.

Conversely, Nissui's domestic aquaculture production struggled due to poor growth of fry in its salmon farms, but profits increased due to a hike in sales volumes for its farmed yellowtail.

In the wild caught segment, sales remained static, but operating income rose 43 percent to JPY 5.4 billion (€43.2 million/$48.6 million).

In processing and trading, aforemention yellowtail sales contributed to profits, with the company's North American processing business, contributing to increased sales of surimi and fish fillets, but dragging down profits on higher costs.

Volumes up, but prices impact Kyokuyo earnings

At Kyokuyo, salmon, shrimp and northern sea fish trading volumes grew, but could not save the company from a loss induced by poor market conditions for Chilean salmon and trout.

Sales and profits increased in the frozen and shelf-stable segments and in cooked frozen foods, products such as crab-flavored kamaboko (cured surimi) and fried shrimp grew.

In canned foods, sales of canned sardine, bonito and saury increased. As raw material prices continued to rise, profitability improved due to price revisions and changes in standards.

In the sushi and sashimi segments, sales of processed products such as bonito and tuna grew. Although the company's overseas purse seine business declined due to a drop in fish prices, profits were maintained at the same level as the previous year due to cost reductions. The aquaculture business also improved profits.

Cooked and processed foods drove earnings increase for Nichirei

Nichirei's mainstay processed foods business and low-temperature logistics business remained strong in the first half. In terms of profits, although the bioscience business struggled, the company's processed food business, where sales of cooked frozen foods were strong, drove an increase.

Sales and profits in Nichirei's fishery business declined due to octopus market deterioration, having switched to a structure with an emphasis on profitability over sales.

Operating income in the processed food business increased 31 percent to JPY 8.4 billion (€67.2 million/$75.6 million). Sales expanded for home and commercial use and the performance of overseas subsidiaries also improved.

Poor half for Toyo Suisan's seafood segment as market conditions drive a loss

Toyo Suisan, who's mainstay is instant noodles increased earnings in both domestic and overseas markets in the first half.

In its seafood business, sales volumes declined due to market fluctuations for products such as salmon and fish roe. Net sales were JPY 14.9 billion (€119.2 million/$134.1 million), a decrease of 2.8 percent on the previous year, and a segment loss of JPY 31 million (€248,000/$279,000) against segment profit of JPY 159 million (€1.3 million/$1.4 million) in the previous year.

Sales increased in Toyo's processed food business, but a rise in depreciation expenses associated with the operation of a new factory, lead to a loss for the segment.

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