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Japan's farmers bet on premium fruit and rice to halt decline

In shift to quality over quantity, registered varieties triple since 1994

Rice is one crop in which Japan's regions compete to set themselves apart. (Photo by Tadanori Yoshida)

TOKYO -- From steamy Okinawa to snowy Hokkaido, farmers across Japan have more than tripled the number of registered brands of fruit, rice and other crops over the past three decades, a Nikkei analysis shows, in a shift to varieties that can fetch premium prices.

Japan's agricultural output has declined by value since peaking in fiscal 1994. But local governments and agricultural cooperatives have dug deep to develop bigger, tastier and more resilient varieties, competing to add a new twist that cannot be found anywhere else.

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