Japan's declining fruit industry captures international interest

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Japan's declining fruit industry captures international interest

For four decades now, fresh fruit consumption in Japan has experienced a marked decline.  Household cosumption has dropped to less than half of its levels in the 1970s and fruit has lost much of its appeal with younger generations.enjoyfruits

Japanese consumers in their 20s and 30s eat only 70% of the level of fruit eaten by those over 60, according to the United States Deparment of Agriculture (USDA).

To encourage higher cosumption, the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Japan has launched the "Enjoy Fruits!" campaign, an initiative directed at raising awareness of U.S. agricultural products.

The guidebook aims to turn around Japan's growing disfavor for fruit by demostrating the health aspect of the category. Its core concept, "Future Fruits," demonstrates new opportunities to incorporate fruit through art, sports, music, and other cultural events.

The beginning of the campaign has focused on Japan's food industry through trade shows and events, as well as strategic meetings with chain restaurant operators, major fruit importers and produce wholesalers.

The meetings have found that many restaurants have not incorporated fruits into their menus due to high costs and limited domestic supply.

As Japan's famers age, fruit production in the nation has declined.

Volume of the top five fruits has declined considerably over the past decade. In 2003, mandarin orange production was at 1.1 million tons (MT), compared to 846,300 MT in 2012. Over the same period, apples dropped from 842,200 MT to 793,800 MT.

Fruit that is produced nationally also tends to be of higher value, like peaches, melons and strawberries.

The combination of low supply and high prices has encouraged U.S. interest in the market to provide competitive prices and stable supply.

The USDA also highlighted opportunities due to Japan's increasing demand for American-style restaurants and receptivity to high-value U.S. products.

The intiative promotes conventional U.S. fruits, as well as new products such as GM papayas and semi-processed products like dry fruits and tree nuts.

Inside the guidebook, readers can view examples of fruit art using Florida and California citrus, as well as Hawaiian pineapples and papaya. The book also maps out various U.S. production regions and includes a harvest calendar to provide perspective on the products' origin.

The "Enjoy Fruits!" brochure will be incorporated into various ATO-promotional campaigns throughout 2014.


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