High-end Japanese fruit varieties widely grown in China

TOKYO, Nov. 28 – Shine Muscat grapes, a premium variety developed in Japan, were grown in China in the area of at least 53,000 hectares in 2020, according to an investigation by the Japan Association for Techno-innovation in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The cultivation area was more than 30 times that in Japan.

The growing area in China for Benihoppe strawberries, also developed in Japan, totaled 44,000 hectares in 2019, 8.4 times the cultivation area in Japan for all strawberry varieties.

While Japan revised the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Law in April to prevent brand fruits and other newly developed plant varieties from being taken abroad, the figures indicate that production of Japan-developed fruit varieties is already widely conducted overseas.

The association’s investigation based on statistics from Chinese research institutions and other sources showed that cultivation of Benihoppe occupies a quarter of China’s overall strawberry production.

As of 2018, the total cultivation area of Shine Muscat grapes in Japan was 1,625 hectares, and that of Benihoppe strawberries was 5,200 hectares, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Shine Muscat was developed by the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization and registered as a variety in 2006, while Benihoppe was developed by the Shizuoka Prefectural Government and registered in 2002.

However, prior to the revision of the plant variety protection law, it was not illegal to take seeds or seedlings of registered varieties abroad, except for shipments to certain countries, if they were purchased through authorized dealers. It was possible even for foreign nationals or non-farmers to buy, carry or send seeds and seedlings of domestically developed farm products out of the country.

To prevent unauthorized shipments of varieties abroad, the revised law allows plant breeders to designate where their varieties are permitted to be grown when registering their species, meaning they can limit cultivation only to Japan or to certain prefectures.

Even for varieties that have already been registered or are still under the process to be registered, breeders could submit applications to the farm ministry by the end of September if they wanted to restrict shipments out of the country.

Individuals found to have exported designated agricultural products against the conditions will be slapped with a penalty, such as being sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

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