Nippon Meat Packers is reportedly preparing to establish a joint venture with an unnamed seafood group to cultivate bluefin tuna.

Such a move would represent the meat processor's first step into the fish farming and processing business.

According to Japanese reports, the new firm will begin trading from the end of 2009 and will supply fish to the domestic market. The group is purportedly targeting sales of JPY1bn (US$9.3m) in fiscal 2010.

Nippon will hold 44% of the venture through a subsidiary, sources said, with the remainder being held by a seafood processor and a Japanese fisherman's cooperative.

The seafood processor will purchase young fish and produce feed, the fishermen's cooperative will raise the tuna and Nippon Meat's subsidiary will process and sell the fish, Japanese papers reported.

Nippon has not confirmed the move.