E-Mart cuts ‘diamond’ fish prices

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E-Mart cuts ‘diamond’ fish prices

Despite the soaring costs of the popular galchi, or hairtail fish, E-Mart has figured out a way to offer it on sale at up to 75 percent off.

The retailer’s solution is to skip the pricey Korean hairtail, instead flying the fish in fresh from the United Arab Emirates.

The sale began Thursday and is slated to continue for a week at every E-Mart nationwide. It is the first time fresh imported hairtail is being sold at a hypermarket.

While the species has been dubbed the “golden hairtail” or “diamond hairtail” because of its price, the same fish from the United Arab Emirates is up to 72 percent cheaper.

A so-called king-size fish, weighing about 750 grams (1.7 pounds), costs 13,800 won ($12), while an “extra-large” fish, weighing roughly 550 grams, costs 9,980 won.

The same-size fish from Jeju Island are trading at 50,600 won and 26,200 won, respectively, according to the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives at Seogwipo.

Another advantage of imported hairtail is that all the fish are sized extra-large or bigger.

In Korea, less than 15 percent of domestic hairtails are that large. Due to the scarcity, the bigger fish are usually only found at department stores or restaurants, and are very expensive.

The rise in domestic hairtail prices stems from fewer fish being caught around the peninsula.

According to the Fisheries Information Service Portal, 46,780 tons of domestic hairtail were caught last year, which is 45 percent less compared to five years prior.

As a result, more hairtail has been imported from countries like Senegal.But until now, that fish wasn’t usually transported fresh.

According to data compiled by the Korea Customs Service, 90 percent of imported hairtail comes frozen.

“UAE hairtail is caught by reel and line with multiple hooks like at Jeju Island, which keeps their silvery scales lively,” said an official from E-Mart.

The delivery time is shortened by directly sending the fish from the Arabian Gulf through Dubai Airport to Incheon Airport. Hairtail from Senegal takes roughly 35 days to reach Korea by ship.

BY KOO HUI-LYUNG [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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