Convenience stores and restaurants cut chicken dishes due to shortage

Food products containing processed chicken, such as karaage fried chicken, are rare in some convenience stores and family restaurants in Japan, with production halted in Thailand since around summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Large chains of convenience stores and family restaurants are adjusting the volume of products on sale to deal with shortages as high demand approaches around Christmas.

Convenience store industry leader Seven-Eleven Japan Co. has struggled to source Thai-made “karaagebo” and “nanachiki” products. The company has reduced supplies in some areas so that products will be available to customers again as usual around Christmas, a spokesperson said.

FamilyMart Co. has reduced supply of its “Famichiki” across the country and expects to be able to sell sufficient quantities of the product by mid-December.

Frozen food for households is also scarce.

Since early October, Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co. has faced shortages of six products, including “karaage”, produced at its factory in Thailand. The factory has now resumed normal operations, which should see the company resume normal sales by the end of November, company officials said.

Among restaurateurs, Saizeriya Co. is experiencing chicken wing shortages. It reduced the number of “chicken karami” pieces from five to four per dish without changing the price, with no prospect of restoring the portion size to normal, company officials said. Makoto Tani, chairman and president of Skylark Holdings Co., said companies are competing to source chicken from Brazil, a major exporter.

In contrast, major convenience store chain Lawson Inc. uses domestic chicken for its “karaagekun,” as does Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. for its products, so they did not suffer from supply shortages.

An official from the Meat and Egg Division of the Ministry of Agriculture said, “The spread of coronavirus infections in Thailand is affecting (Japanese companies) with a time lag.”

The official fears the situation could get serious as bird flu outbreaks hit Japan at a time when domestic chicken prices are rising.

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About Mohammed B. Hale

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