Eels are at their plumpest and prettiest from May to September every year. More than 80 percent of Taiwan’s eel is exported to Japan. Even though Japan survived the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country’s east coast on March 11, their demand for eel has not diminished, which is causing eel prices in Taiwan to soar. Eel is currently traded at more than NT$900 per kilogram, breaking a half-century record. Local businesses have already stealthily raised the price of unadon, a popular dish of grilled eel over a bed of rice, by NT$40 to NT$70 per portion.
An official at the Fisheries Agency said that climate change has caused the number of natural elvers to decrease, leaving production this year at a mere 2,000 tons, barely half of last year’s production of 4,000 to 5,000 tons. Summer is a time when Japanese consume the most eel, which is believed to be a health supplement, thus, export quantity also influences local prices. A gift box containing four eels is currently sold at around NT$1,000 per box, a NT$200 to NT$300 increase from previous prices.
One kilogram, or about four to six eels, is sold at as much as NT$920. However, the eel market is still proving profitable even though supply is unable to meet demand. The president of an eel cooperative in Yunlin County said the price per kilogram used to be under NT$700, but is expected to rise beyond NT$1,000 by the end of May, which means consumers will have to shovel out more money if they still wish to enjoy fresh eel.
One owner of a Japanese restaurant said she usually launches a special eel-based menu every year in June, but that she has yet to settle on her prices this year because she must refer to June eel prices to make her final decision. If one kilogram of eel exceeds NT$1,000, she will have to compromise with a price hike. The owner of an unadon restaurant in Greater Taichung said he already adjusted his prices on May 1 as a reaction to the cost of eel. Small portions were raised from NT$140 to NT$180 while big portions are now sold for NT$350, originally only NT$280.
1. ravage v.
蹂躪 (rou2 lin4)
例: The tornadoes that passed through here on Sunday ravaged the area.
2. profitable adj.
有利潤的 (you3 li4 run4 de5)
例: If a company finds a product no longer profitable, they will usually stop selling that product.
3. compromise v.
讓步 (rang4 bu4)
例: We cannot compromise our beliefs if moral integrity still has any worth in society.
However, some business owners are choosing to limit the quantity of eel they serve instead of raising prices. One restaurant in Taipei is planning to reduce the amount of eel served in each portion so that every customer will still get a chance to enjoy their eel. They will also encourage customers to order other dishes to reduce the consumption of eel in their shop. On the other hand, a restaurant in Kaohsiung has opted to reduce the portions of unadon, the most popular dish they offer, to only 50 per day. The owner said if prices keep soaring he will be forced to raise his prices as well.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSALTED BY TAIJING WU)