TOKYO, Sept. 13 – The United States government has agreed to allow imports of fresh persimmons from Japan, Japan’s agriculture ministry announced Tuesday.
The two governments reached consensus on necessary phytosanitary requirements, including appropriate pest control. Shipments of persimmons that meet the requirements are likely to start as early as this year.
Japan had long been asking the U.S. to lift its import ban on Japan-grown persimmons. The U.S. government had been refusing to do so, citing insufficient pest control, but has judged the necessary conditions are met.
The U.S. requires that persimmons to be imported from Japan be produced at farms which are registered at plant protection stations with proper orchard monitoring and pest control.
The decision will become effective on Oct. 12, but most of the growers are expected to start exporting persimmons next year, after going through registration and inspection procedures. Growers of Wakayama Prefecture, the main production region, plan to start shipping the produce this year, since they have been preparing for the removal of the export ban since last year.
According to the agriculture ministry, the production of persimmons totaled 232,900 tons in 2016. Exports have been increasing in recent years, mainly to Thailand and Hong Kong, reaching 640 tons last year, equivalent to 250 million yen. Because demand for the fruit is expanding in the U.S., the U.S.’ lifting of the ban is likely to help boost exports further.
“We are very happy that delicious Japan-grown persimmons will be eaten (in the U.S.),” agriculture minister Ken Saito said at a regular news conference after the Cabinet meeting.
Phytosanitary measures are becoming an issue as Japan aims to boost exports of high-quality fruits, which the nation is said to have a competitive advantage. In response to requests from fruit growing regions, the agriculture ministry is discussing with prospective importing countries to set conditions for shipping fruits, such as apples to the U.S. and Canada, citrus fruits to Thailand and apples and pears to Australia.