Crab enthusiasts in Korea are abuzz about the possibility of enjoying blue crabs imported from Italy, following news that the country is grappling with an unusual "invasion" of the sea creatures that people there do not eat, and are thus being discarded.
Originating from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, the blue crabs have invaded the northern coast of Italy, devouring clams and other shellfish indigenous to the region since this spring. Without natural predators, their numbers are rapidly growing, according to news reports.
CNN reported that the Italian government has allocated 2.9 million euros this year to address the problem and to support fishermen affected by the invasion. Italian Prime Minsiter Giorgia Meloni and Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida have actively campaigned for people to eat the crabs as a means to deal with them.
This news has prompted Koreans, who are among the biggest crab consumers in the world, to seek to import the crabs from Italy.
Koreans consume different kinds of crabs in various ways, from simple boiling to marinating them in soy sauce to make "'ganjang gejang," a traditional delicacy that has been enjoyed since the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).
The majority of crabs consumed in Korea are imported from Russia and China, according to the Overseas Market Research Center. Blue crabs are also on the list ― mostly from Tunisia ― but only in frozen form.
An importer has already run a pre-order advertisement, saying it would sell the crabs at 8,900 won per kilogram. But the company is yet to go through an import inspection.
Most seafood importers, however, view the import of blue crabs from Italy as rather impractical.
"The labor cost in Italy is at least twice that of Tunisia. Also, the crabs will need an additional process upon arriving in Korea, making the price less affordable for consumers," one importer was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo, a local daily.
Another industry insider stated that the blue crabs would also face tough competition with those from China. "To beat crabs from China, the Italian crabs should be priced between 700-800 won per kilogram," he said.