University in northeastern Japan aims to cultivate original apple variety in Japan and South Africa for year-round exports

AOMORI, Dec. 13 – Hirosaki University in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, has launched an initiative with a trading company in Tokyo to cultivate Kimito, an apple variety developed by the university, in Japan and South Africa to be shipped to the Asian region.

By realizing a year-round supply of apples of an original variety across national borders, they hope to expand sales channels for apples including domestically-produced ones.

They have obtained intellectual property rights for the variety overseas and plan to return the profits to the university.

Withmettac Foods, Inc., a fruits trading company with a strong overseas network, gained a breeder’s right and a trademark right for Kimito in South Africa through a South African firm.

The firm began exporting scions to the country last year, which are currently going through plant quarantine inspections.

Japan’s exports of apples totaled 16.2 billion yen last year, the highest among fruits and vegetables. But Japanese exporters are facing fierce competition in the Asian region with dealers from such countries as New Zealand and China.

“We want to differentiate ourselves from others by handling a high-quality variety exclusively,” said a Withmettac Foods official.

By cultivating the variety in Japan and South Africa which have opposite seasons, they can offer the product all year round, putting them at an advantage in securing buyers.

They are also aiming at making profits from royalty income by selling scions.

A contract was signed so that a part of royalty payments gained by producing and selling the variety abroad will be returned to the university.

Hirosaki University Professor Taishi Hayashida said, “By effectively utilizing intellectual property while protecting it, we hope to return research achievements to society and also establish a foothold for future researches.”

Hirokazu Fukushi, 31, who cultivates Kimito on a 30-are land in the city of Aomori, said the variety tends to get watercored.

Watercore is a sign that the fruit contains more sugar.Fukushi said Kimito apples can last for a considerable period of time if they are kept in the fridge, which means they will be suited for exports.

Withmettac Foods will ask wholesale dealers and others to call on apple growers in Japan to cultivate the variety.

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