Japanese seafood and Wagyu beef the most sought after delicacies at record-breaking Hong Kong food fair

Popularity clear as 331 companies from island nation among 1,500 exhibitors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 11:06am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2017, 11:06pm

Imported seafood and Wagyu beef are the most sought-after delicacies by Hongkongers amid the city’s growing appetite for Japanese food, the island nation’s importers at this year’s food expo said.

Hong Kong has been the top market for Japanese food for 12 years, taking 26 per cent of the country’s food exports last year. The figure marks a 3.3 per cent uptick from the year before.

Japan’s minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Ken Saito, on Thursday attributed the food’s popularity among local residents to a record number of Hongkongers travelling to Japan last year. The Japan National Tourism Organisation tallied about 1.84 million from the city visited, or 21 per cent more than in 2015.

Saito believed Hong Kong had more Japanese restaurants than any city outside the country, and was a hub for re-exporting its food.

“The demand for Japanese food in the Hong Kong market is becoming more diversified, and we’re paying more attention to this,” he said.

Last year, the amount of exported Japanese seafood to the city was valued at HK$5.7 billion – more than twice the value exported to the US, which ranks second, the ministry said. And the amount of exported Wagyu beef to Hong Kong last year increased by 25 per cent compared with 2015, it added.

Saito joined a delegation of Japanese food exporters and producers at the five-day Hong Kong food expo, which opened on Thursday and is one of the largest and most popular in Asia.

Tadashi Takahashi, of Japanese business promoter JETRO, said some Wagyu beef companies sought traders in the city to help them expand their business.

He described the market potential for Japanese food locally as “dramatic”.

Its popularity was evident at the food expo. A record number of exhibitors came from Japan: 331 companies from 36 prefectures.

Hong Kong Food Expo sellers bait early birds with big discounts

Now in its 28th year, the event held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai features more than 1,500 exhibitors from 26 countries, including Japan.

Before the expo opened its doors at 10am Thursday, hundreds of foodies, young and old, had queued up from dawn hoping for a chance to secure HK$1 bargains set aside for early birds. Dozens even camped out overnight to get a good spot in line.

I’m going for the HK$1 bargains, including mooncakes, sausages and beer
Attendee Alex Lam Wai-yin

First among them was Jacky Lee, 38, who had been waiting since 5pm Tuesday.

“I came for the HK$1 abalone from On Kee Dry Seafood,” Lee said. He added that he expected to fork out more than HK$1,000 – what he spent last year – at the fair’s Japanese pavilion.

Ng Wai-mui, 70, came prepared with a trolley and a bench, giving up sleep in the hope of getting a good deal on abalone. Like Lee, she was early enough to gain a chance to win a bag of the pricey shellfish.

“I brought a trolley because I intend to buy other delicacies and seafood after getting the abalone,” she said, adding that she expected to spend about HK$1,000 at the fair.

Alex Lam Wai-yin, 23, said he arrived at the exhibition centre at 8pm Wednesday evening and saw about 10 people in front of him.

“It’s the first time I’ve come so early to the expo,” he said. “I’m going for the HK$1 bargains, including mooncakes, sausages and beer.”

Lam complained about “unfair” actions being taken in line, claiming some were queuing on behalf of others.

“Someone in front of me occupied the space with some suitcases and came much later than me,” he said.

Chau Ho-cheung, 20, who had been camping since midnight with five friends, all in their 20s, said each of their budgets was under HK$10.

“People who queue up early all come for those bargains,” Chau said. “Deep-pocket spenders do not need to stand in line.”