TOKYO -- Consumers in the greater China region are snapping up premium Japanese fruits -- and paying a premium for them.
The region is in the midst of a holiday period, during which people traditionally exchange gifts. This includes the Mid-Autumn Festival, which fell in mid-September, as well as National Day on Oct. 1, which marks the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Grapes and melons with high sugar content are particularly popular choices. They are cropping up on store shelves with prices more than double those in Japan. With incomes on the rise, consumers are willing to pony up the cash.
Exports of Shine Muscat, a premium grape variety, to Hong Kong and Taiwan began increasing in late August. "Export volume grew 2.5 times compared with the same period last year" ahead of the September-October demand peak, according to an official of JA Fruits Yamanashi, an exporter in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture -- just west of Tokyo.
Developed in Japan, Shine Muscat grapes can be eaten with their skins and contain no seeds.
At upscale supermarkets and department stores in greater China, bunches are priced at around 6,000 yen ($58.60) -- triple the going rate in Japan.
Hokkaido exporter JA Kyowa, meanwhile, has sent 30,000 Raiden melons to Hong Kong and other markets. The melon brand is distinguished by its longer shelf life and higher sugar content, compared with normal melons. As popular as they are among gift-givers, a JA Kyowa representative said 30,000 is the current maximum it can ship to the region.
Some local stores sell Raiden melons for the equivalent of 2,500 yen apiece, more than double the price in Japan.
Trade statistics show Japan's exports of grapes to Hong Kong increased by 40% on the year between January and July, while the figure for melons rose 10%.