TOKYO, Jun. 22 – Japan’s exports of apples produced in 2022 (from September 2022 to April 2023) reached 38,554 tons, a record high for the first time in seven years. In value terms, it also hit a record high at 18.89 billion yen. Exports to Taiwan and Hong Kong increased due to weak apple production in the U.S., one of Japan’s competitors. In Taiwan, demands for Japanese apples are growing as gift items and also table fruits. Also, the depreciation of the yen had a favorable impact.
According to the finance ministry’s trade statistics, Japan’s apple exports peaked at 36,304 tons in 2015 and have gone sluggish since then due to shortages of large-sized apples, which are popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Logistics disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic also led to a slowdown in exports.
Aomori Prefecture produces 90% of apples for exports from Japan. According to the prefecture, many of the apples this year were large and high in eating quality, and that’s one of the primary reasons for the export growth this time.
By destination and region, exports to Taiwan jumped 40% year-over-year to 28,126 tons. Japanese apples have already been popular Chinese New Year gifts, but more and more people recently buy them as table fruits. An official in charge of apple production at the Zen-Noh Aomori group, responsible for selling agricultural products in Aomori, said, “Japanese apples have penetrated the Taiwanese market, and our sales will grow even after the Chinese New Year.”
Exports to Hong Kong grew 31% to 8,747 tons. The market has a steady demand primarily for Orin apples throughout the year. “Sales promotions conducted with related organizations were also successful,” an official of the prefecture’s international economic affairs division explained.
Exports to Singapore rose 15% to 319 tons, while exports to Thailand and Vietnam dropped 4% to 889 tons and 2% to 271 tons, respectively. Aomori intends to expand its sales promotion activities in Southeast Asia, considering it a region with a growing population.
According to the JA Zen-Noh Aomori, having more workers to do sorting and shipping will be the key to expanding exports in the future. The prefecture can increase exports even further by securing enough workers in December and January when the apple producers are the busiest handling domestic orders, it said.
Do the growing exports increase farmers’ incomes? Yes, they do. According to the JA Zen-Noh Aomori, apples for exports are priced about 50 to 100 yen higher per kilogram than for the domestic market. However, that includes high material costs to keep the products for exports fresh. Meanwhile, apple consumption in the domestic market is sluggish due to population decline, and there is competition with imported apples. But the export growth has contributed to a rise in domestic sales prices, according to the JA.