Fukushima’s peach exports expected to hit post-quake high in 2019

Exports of peaches produced in Fukushima Prefecture are expected to reach about 50 tons in 2019, some 1.5 times the previous year's level (32.4 tons) and the largest volume since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to the prefectural government's statistics compiled by Aug. 23. Prefectural officials attributed it mainly to brisk sales of the main "Akatsuki" and "Madoka" varieties of the fruit in Thailand, Malaysia and other Asian markets. Deeming Southeast Asia as a priority region in expanding overseas sales, the prefecture plans to step up sales campaigns in countries where recognition of the Fukushima brand of peaches remains low in an effort to further boost exports. Changes in the volume of Fukushima peach exports are shown in the accompanying graph. According to tallies confirmed by the prefectural government, Thailand accounted for about 30 tons of peaches exported between July, when shipments from orchards began, and Aug. 20; Malaysia about 5 tons; Indonesia about 4 tons; and Cambodia about 0.3 ton. In addition, the Fukushima Prefectural Headquarters of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zen-Noh) is preparing to ship another batch of some 7 tons that have been ordered by an export agent handling shipments to Thailand. Prefectural officials believe this year's exports are highly likely to top the 50-ton mark as peach sales in Southeast Asia are expected to continue until the season for the fruit ends in mid-September. Starting this year, Fukushima has positioned Cambodia as a new overseas market, to which it is seeking to export about a ton, almost triple the 2018 level. The prefecture began pumping up promotional activities there in August, holding tasting-cum-sale sessions in Cambodia at two outlets of Japan's retail giant Aeon group, mainly over the weekend, through mid-September. A pair of Fukushima peaches sells for about 1,000 yen there, some 60% higher than in Japan, but the fruit is said to be popular for its sweet and juicy taste. A scheduled two-day sales campaign sometimes winds up in one day with the fruit sold out, showing its strong popularity. Fukushima peaches are also sold for high prices ranging from about 700 yen to 1,000 yen per pair in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, where they are enjoying high popularity. The prefecture is aiming to boost sales further by teaming up with organizations concerned to continue storefront sales campaigns at retailers such as department stores and luxury supermarkets, and to keep inviting local buyers to a tour of peach-producing areas in Fukushima. The prefecture and JA Zen-Noh's Fukushima headquarters are set to focus ahead on brand penetration in Singapore, where the level of national income is high. Peach exports to the country resumed in 2015 after the disaster, but are running at a low level of several hundred kilograms to about a ton or so per year, showing no visible growth in demand. Fukushima plans to consider in-store promotional blitzes in cooperation with Japanese-affiliated large mass merchandise outlets and other retail shops. There were no peach exports from Fukushima in 2011 in the aftermath of the nuclear mishap. In and after 2005 when the prefecture began tallying exports, the 2008 total of 69.9 tons remains a record annual high. In Taiwan, which was a main export market before the disaster, import restrictions are still in place on food products from Fukushima. "We would like to send out information on the safety of prefectural products on the back of exports to Southeast Asia that will eventually lead to the relaxation of import restrictions,” said an official of the prefectural government's local product promotion and strategy section. ■ Targeting 500 tons in farm exports by end of FY 2020 The prefecture has set a target of 500 tons in annual exports of local agricultural produce, including peaches, to be achieved by the end of fiscal 2020 beginning next April. Farm exports totaled 217.8 tons in fiscal 2018. Fukushima plans to conduct tasting-cum-sale campaigns in priority overseas markets in a bid to spread the allure of its products among local consumers. On the other hand, import restrictions remain on Fukushima food in 22 countries and regions, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, both main export markets before the nuclear accident. The prefecture intends to work on dissemination of precise, scientifically based product information to the rest of the world in cooperation with the central government and other parties concerned in a bid to resume exports. (Translated by Kyodo News)