Message from the president
Building Peace Through Exchange
Last year was a year marked by conflict and disaster. The Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its second year and ongoing clashes occurred between Israel and the Islamic group Hamas. Last February, the Turkey-Syria Earthquake struck the southeast of Turkey, claiming over 56,000 lives. This was followed in September by a massive flood in Libya that took the lives of more than 8,000 people.
As a trading company specializing in the import and export of fresh foods and flowers, our business is directly impacted by such conflicts and natural disasters. For example, our partnership with a Ukrainian seafood company, which processed part of our salmon raised in the Arctic region of Norway, was severely disrupted by the war. In response, our company donated 100,000 US dollars in aid toward their quick recovery, prompting a visit from the company president and his wife to Japan last spring to express their gratitude. Considering our business partners in the Turkish seafood industry, we raised 10.62 million yen from our directors and employees to support earthquake victims there, donated through the Turkish embassy.
Entering my second year as company President, I have traveled to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia in Southeast Asia, several European countries like Spain, Norway, Germany, as well as the US and Canada—eight countries in total. While expanding business with current trading partners and developing new customer relationships were the primary goals, in each location it was clear how the Ukraine conflict and Middle East tensions had cast a cloud over the economies and everyday life. Particularly in Europe, there was a mood of fatigue from the continuous aid to Ukraine that seemed to challenge the stability within the EU.
In Japan, after COVID was downgraded in severity, hopes of a full-fledged were dampened by the rising costs of materials and shipping, along with a surge in prices of energy and food items that strained household budgets. Additionally, factors such as the interest rate gap between Japan and the US led to a continued devaluation of the yen in currency markets.
Despite these challenges, our company managed to thrive by hedging against sudden currency fluctuations, strengthening imports of our core Arctic salmon, and successfully importing flowers such as chrysanthemums from Vietnam and carnations from Colombia. We continued to support the Ukrainian seafood company and have successfully launched new co-developed products for the Japanese market. We are also looking to officially begin imports of Iberico pork from Spain.
To maintain a balance in trade, we focused on boosting exports of Japanese-produced fresh foods to Southeast Asia. However, business with Chinese companies in the region was temporarily halted over the issue of treated water from the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. While there has been gradual recovery, our exports ultimately declined. However, thanks to the weaker yen attracting more tourists to Japan and boosting demand within the country, our overall performance remained strong this fiscal year.
Japan’s economy, in the midst of what is often referred to as “the lost 30 years,” has long been plagued by deflation and slow growth. Once the world's second-largest economy in terms of GDP, Japan lost its position to China, which continued its rapid growth as “the world's factory.” Furthermore, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan may soon have its third-place position taken by Germany.
Compared to the bustling economies of Southeast Asia, Japan's economy may indeed appear stagnant, but its potential should not be overlooked. Despite various challenges such as a declining birthrate and shrinking workforce, the most pressing issue is investing in its talent.
Our company, with over 50 years of history, makes investment in talent our top priority. Last year, we implemented significant pay raises for top employees who embody our corporate philosophy, a trend we plan to continue. We regularly send junior-level employees overseas on business trips to gain on-site experience and provide training to develop the skills and personal attributes necessary for building trust with our trading partners. We are also committed to digital transformation (DX) to achieve maximum results with a smaller headcount and improve our operational efficiency.
This year, with the expectation of ongoing conflict and impacts of global warming, our mission as a trading company to engage with people from diverse cultures, histories, and ways of life through business is more important than ever. We firmly believe that such consistent engagement can make a meaningful contribution to world peace.
Guided by the “Sanpo Yoshi” philosophy established by our founder Chairman Tachio Yoneda, which emphasizes a three-way benefit for seller, buyer, and society, we are dedicated to planting the seeds for future business and making a positive impact on local communities.
Ocean Trading Co., Ltd. President Naoki Kaneko