Prices of Shine Muscat grapes dropping this year amid slowing overseas demand

TOKYO, Sept. 16 — The prices of Shine Muscat grapes this year have been below the average year, as the markets are seeing a lull in high prices amid abundant supply and dark clouds are looming over strong exports.

Meanwhile, the scope of products using the variety is expanding, including processed items containing Shine Muscat grape juice.

The Shine Muscat variety became widely popular due to its good taste, as well as its seedless feature and edible skin which makes it easy to eat.

Overseas demand for the variety also increased, with shipments showing a growing trend both in terms of value and volume.

More growers shifted production from black grapes to Shine Muscat, resulting in expansion of crop acreage.

The total amount of Shine Muscat grapes traded by seven major wholesalers nationwide in 2022 was 13 times more than in 2012.

The crop acreage of Shine Muscat grapes to be harvested this year is estimated to reach 1,932 hectares, up 11 percent from a year before, and production is expected to continue expanding.

Despite the boost in production, its prices have been rising. The average price of Shine Muscat was 1,966 yen per kilogram in 2022, up 60 percent from 2012, according to calculations by the Japan Agricultural News based on data from the seven major wholesalers.

However, since mid-August, the prices have stayed 10 percent below the average over the past five years.

A fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Tokyo attributes the decline in prices to an increase in production and also a rise in supply in domestic markets this year because of sluggish exports.

According to an exporter in Tokyo, the variety is facing fierce competition in Hong Kong with lower-priced grapes from China and South Korea, and there are moves to avoid purchasing Japanese produce after treated radioactive water started to be released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to the ocean in August.

On the other hand, demand is growing for the variety to be used in processed items.

Godo Shusei Co. under alcoholic beverage trader Oenon Holdings Inc. started selling in July a shochu highball product containing juice of Shine Muscat made in Nagano Prefecture.

As the demand for Shine Muscat as table grapes had been high, it was difficult for processing firms to acquire the grapes, but more of them are now being distributed for juicing use as production increased.

Major fast food chain McDonald’s sold a dessert using Nagano-grown Shine Muscat juice for a limited period.

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