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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Chopstick shortage: Should Japanese people start eating with their hands?

(By Razib Ahmed)
When I think of Japanese food, the first image that comes to mind is that of chop stick. I am not a big fan of Japanese food although I admire their healthy eating style and like them, I also consume a lot of fish every year but my fish curries are cooked with a lot of spice. The Japanese are crazy for their chopsticks and they mainly eat with wooden disposable chopsticks that are mainly imported from China. Needless to say that wooden chopsticks are good for health. 25 billion of pairs or chopsticks- that is the size of this industry in Japan and 97% of this amount is imported from China. Now, China has imposed a tax of 5% to save its forests and if you are an environmentalist then surely you would appreciate this move by China. Coupled with increase in transport cost because of rising price oil in the international market, the price of chopsticks have increased 50%-70% in Japan. However, the Japanese people can still afford a chopstick as its price is merely 1.5 to 1.7 yean (well under 2 cent) a pair. However, the main fear is not of price increase but of stoppage in supply from China. Chinese government is seriously considering the idea of stopping export of wooden chopsticks to save its trees. So, the Japanese importers are now thinking of importing chopsticks made of bamboo instead of wood. They are also trying to find alternative markets like Vietnam, Indonesia and even Russia.

Food habit is really a serious thing to change and it is impossible to change your eating habit overnight. I wish the Japanese can learn to eat with their hands more like South Asian people. That can save them a lot of problems.
What do you think?

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