Japan enjoys surge in strawberry exports

TOKYO, April 11 – Japan is seeing a huge growth in exports of strawberries, with February shipments posting 493 tons, topping 1 billion yen in terms of value in a month for the first time, according to the Finance Ministry’s trade statistics.

The monthly volume of exports exceeded 400 tons for two months in a row, reflecting growing reputation for the high quality of Japan-grown strawberries and strong demand for the fruit during the stay-home period amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan’s strawberries are shipped to areas including Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and the United States.

The exports began to increase in 2014 and marked a record high of 1,237 tons in 2018.

Shipments dropped to below 1,000 tons in 2019 due to bad harvest, but reached 1,179 tons in 2020, the second highest on record after 2018, despite stagnation in logistics due to the pandemic.

While exports in 2020 was 11.5 times as much as those in 2010, shipments in the first two months of this year totaled 913 tons, already reaching 80 percent of the yearly shipments for 2020.

Japan-grown strawberries are sold in overseas markets at prices three to six times higher than in Japan, but they are popular mainly among wealthy people because of the large size and good taste.

“While we had to cope with the issue of reduction in flights to ship products due to the pandemic, there was brisk demand among the people overseas who couldn’t visit Japan but wanted to consume them at home,” said an official of JA Zen-Noh Fukuren, a farm coop in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Strawberries are seen as an item with high export potential. “Demand (for Japanese strawberries) will increase further in the future,” said an official of ZEN-NOH International Corporation, the export trading arm of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group, a view shared by many.

Tochigi Prefecture, a major strawberry growing region which boosts exports by utilizing cross-border online shopping sites, has organized cooking classes using Tochigi-grown strawberries in Singapore and Malaysia despite the pandemic.

The prefecture hopes to further strengthen sales promotion activities in overseas markets.

The Japanese government aims to expand strawberry exports to reach 8.6 billion yen in terms of value in 2025.

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