Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Japan's low-cost soul food noodles may become casualty of Ukraine war

Forex May 02, 2022 09:06PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. A customer looks at his mobile phone at Soba noodle restaurant at a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

By Elaine Lies and Akiko Okamoto

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ryu Ishihara will soon be raising prices on his inexpensive bowls of soba noodles for the first time in nearly a decade, as rising costs and Russia's invasion of Ukraine take an unlikely toll on Japan's beloved buckwheat noodles.

Though seen as one of the most quintessential of Japanese foods - and eaten on New Year's Eve for good luck - a good part of the buckwheat that goes into the noodles comes from Russia, globally the top buckwheat producer.

Russian buckwheat can still be imported, but instability and shipping disruptions have hampered and delayed procurement. That has added to the pain for soba shop owners such as Ishihara who are already suffering as a global surge in commodity prices, coupled with the yen's plunge, has sent prices climbing.

Soy sauce, flour, the vegetables used for tempura toppings and even the fish used for the broth have all risen in cost.

"The suppliers did all they could, but this time the situation's so bad there's no way to avoid raising prices. There are things I'll have to raise by 10 to 15 percent," Ishihara said in his narrow shop, steaming vats of water behind him.

Soba is famous as a cheap meal served cold or hot, often slurped quickly by workers and students in narrow shops that may cut costs by doing without seats. The noodles' low calorie count and nutritious vitamin and mineral content makes them healthy too.

Ishihara's prices run from 290 yen ($2.25) up to 550 yen, with add-ons such as tempura and sets with rice costing more.

"Now, with the war, the cost of importing the buckwheat too has gone up," he said.

Despite soba's iconic status, Japan in 2020 produced only 42% of its buckwheat needs, according to the Japan Soba Association. The gap is filled by imports, with Russia the third-largest source of buckwheat from 2018, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

In 2021, Russia rose to second, displacing China, and up until February it was No. 1.

Then it invaded Ukraine, adding to the surge in commodities prices, while Japan's yen meanwhile plunged to a 20-year low. On top of that, sanctions and crackdowns on the Russian banking system, which have frozen Moscow out of international finance, have made it more difficult to settle some accounts.

The result has been headaches for soba importers and millers like Hua Yue at the purchasing department of Nikkoku Seifun Co Ltd in Matsumoto, a city in the traditional soba-producing area of Nagano.

Her company imports buckwheat seeds from Russia, as well as other nations including China, in 800- to 1,000-tonne sacks, though she declined to give exact amounts or percentages of how much each country provides.

So far, the biggest problems have been delays and a 30% rise in the price of Russian buckwheat over the last six months, though that's partly due to an export stoppage last year that was resolved.

With Russia producing half the world's buckwheat, problems mean demand will shift to second-biggest producer China. But with China cutting buckwheat production every year, prices are likely to rise further.

"So it may become hard to eat soba at low-cost places," she added.

Ishihara's faithful customers, such as Keidai Fukuhara, who comes twice a week, shrug higher prices off. But even they may have their limits.

"It'll still be all right," the 27-year-old office worker said. "That is, if the prices stay around 500 yen."

($1 = 128.65 yen)

Japan's low-cost soul food noodles may become casualty of Ukraine war
 

Related Articles

Crypto lender Celsius says it is exploring options
Crypto lender Celsius says it is exploring options By Reuters - Jun 30, 2022 1

(Reuters) -Retail crypto lending platform Celsius Network said on Thursday it was exploring options including deals and restructuring its liabilities. Celsius earlier this month...

Sri Lanka makes progress towards IMF support - IMF
Sri Lanka makes progress towards IMF support - IMF By Reuters - Jun 30, 2022 1

By Uditha Jayasinghe COLOMBO (Reuters) -The International Monetary Fund said its talks with crisis-hit Sri Lanka had been "constructive" on Thursday, raising hopes it would soon...

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (2)
Millennial Stacker
Millennial Stacker May 02, 2022 9:20PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Has nothing to do with russia or ukraine. Everything to do with central banks
Elezabeth Thomas
Elezabeth Thomas May 02, 2022 7:05PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
END UKRANIAN WAR!!
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email