While Tokyo’s Toyosu new wholesale food market is furnished with cutting-edge equipment for temperature and hygiene control, resultant high maintenance costs are seen as a potential problem amid increasing off-market trading.
The new market opened Thursday, about two years later than initially scheduled due to responses to soil contamination at the new market site in Koto Ward.
The Toyosu market, which succeeded the Tsukiji market in neighboring Chuo Ward, aims to handle more fresh food than the retired market did.
Unlike the aged Tsukiji market, which was easily affected by the air outside, the Toyosu market is an enclosed structure, enabling a cold chain supply, in which fresh food products are delivered to customers uninterruptedly refrigerated.
The new market has food-processing and packaging facilities as well, helping reduce the burden on retailers.
Due to these new features, the Toyosu market’s annual operating costs, including labor and utility expenses, are expected to balloon to ¥16 billion, over three times the costs at the Tsukiji market.
With its annual balance, including depreciation and other costs, seen coming to a deficit of ¥9.2 billion, the possibilities of future usage fee hikes and injections of taxpayer money cannot be ruled out, analysts said.
Meanwhile, the proportion of products that are sold through markets in Japan has been declining year by year, as major supermarket operators and other retailers are increasingly making deals directly with producers.
The volume of fishery products traded at central wholesale markets operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decreased by 65 percent from a decade ago.
The amount of fishery products handled by the Toyosu market is expected to reach 616,400 tons in fiscal 2023, up 60 percent from the level at the Tsukiji market in calendar 2017, according to a business plan the Tokyo government submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in August.
A Tokyo government official sounded bullish, saying, “The Toyosu market’s advanced functions will create new demand, and the volume of trading will increase as a result.”
But some experts doubt if the upbeat figure is attainable at a time when the country’s population continues falling.