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Westfalia Fruit sends Colombian avocados to Japan

Westfalia Fruit sends Colombian avocados to Japan

After years of hard work, a container carrying 16 tonnes of quality Colombian Hass avocados has been exported from Westfalia Fruit Colombia (WFC) to Yokohama, Japan. This is the first time that WFC has shipped avocados to the country.

“Colombia’s avocados are in such good condition that WFC is confident shipping avocados to markets that require longer transit times – including Japan, Russia and the Middle East,” says WFC General Manager, and newly elected Vice Chairperson of the Colombian Avocado Board, Pedro Aguilar.

Westfalia Fruit Farms in Colombia has successfully developed its orchards in Sonsón over the past four years, with a constant vision to export its quality fruits to new diverse markets. The excellent agro-ecological conditions in the Sonsón region – which include rich soil with good drainage, warm temperatures, regular precipitation and optimal altitude – are ideal for growing Hass avocados. As a result, WFC is diversifying its markets and has become a major player in global destinations.

The Japanese government worked closely with WFC to ensure the country’s strict technical requirements were met for successful exportation. The avocados left Port Buenaventura, Colombia in mid-January, and the shipment arrived in Yokohama at the beginning of February after fulfilling strict pest control requirements. WFC successfully met the demand for intensive monitoring and surveillance of its high-quality fruit during the entire process.

“We made sure our shipment met strict controls,” says Gilma Orrego, WFC Technical Manager. “We ensured optimal harvesting and plant packaging processes, and the best cooling processes along the way. We also made sure that the fruits consisted of adequate dry matter to guarantee good flavour upon arrival at their destination.”

The Colombian Agricultural Institute also assisted with monitoring the process – from the Japanese government’s very first visit to WFC’s orchards, to the packing and shipment of the fruits.

“We were very careful to introduce our fruit at the right time, in a context where we could develop sustainable business in a long-term commercial relationship,” says Juliana Florez, WFC Commercial Manager. “We waited until we could introduce our high-quality fruit with the best taste – even if it meant waiting a few months after the market was open to us.”

This is yet another boost for the Colombian avocado trade after the World Avocado Congress 2019, sponsored by Westfalia Fruit and held in Colombia, brought much attention and success to the country’s avocado industry.

In another milestone for Colombian avocados, the newly formed Colombia Avocado Board (CAB) was this month certified as an official importer association under the Hass Avocado Promotion, Research and Information Order. CAB will now receive 85% of the assessments paid on Colombia Hass avocados to the Hass Avocado Board (HAB) for research, promotion and information on avocados from Colombia in the United States market.

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Agreement opens opportunities for US fruit in Japan

The US-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA) came into force on January 1, 2020. Once USJTA is fully implemented, up to 90% of all US food and agricultural products imported into Japan will be duty free or receive preferential tariff access. Japan is a key trading partner for the US. In 2018, the US exported $318 million of fresh fruit to Japan, making Japan the 4th largest overseas market for US fresh fruit. The US was the source of one third of Japan’s fresh fruit imports and the leading supplier of fresh oranges, lemons, grapes and cherries. Japan will apply a seasonal US-specific safeguard for oranges starting at 26,435 tons. The safeguard only applies to products imported between December 1 and March 31. If the safeguard volume is exceeded, tariffs on US orange exports will increase for the remainder of that period. The safeguard tariff is 28% in Years 1-3 and 20% in Years 4-6.  The safeguard will be eliminated in Year 7 (2025).

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Japanese supermarket giant Aeon, in online grocery push

AEON organic retail store

AEON organic retail store

Credit: Aeon

 

 

Aeon is partnering with British online grocery pioneer Ocado to launch a new company by March 2020 that will use AI and robotics to deliver a cutting-edge digital experience. Also, as a sustainability initiative, Aeon has set up a platform to help boost organic farming in Japan, where demand is outstripping supply of organic food.

 

Fresh food delivery has yet to truly take off among the Japanese, who largely still pick up fresh produce on a daily basis. But with better logistic networks and different demographics – such as more dual-income households and senior citizens – that’s forecast to change. And with AmazonFresh already in Tokyo, and Walmart (owner of Aeon rival Seiyu) beefing up its online grocery delivery together with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, it’s no surprise that supermarket Aeon is also making the leap. In a statement in November, Aeon said it will leverage Ocado’s world leading know-how to launch and operate “the next generation online supermarket.” It plans to open its first customer fulfilment centre harnessing the Ocado Smart Platform by 2023 to serve Japan’s Kanto region, followed by others over the following two years in order to eventually serve the whole country. And it anticipates achieving online grocery sales of about 600 billion yen (about €4.92b) by 2030. “Aeon will realise a highly efficient operations and distribution system to deliver ‘anytime, anywhere, anything’ through a superb application interface to meet our customer needs. It is expected that these technologies can be utilised for the existing Aeon online supermarket business, store pick up, click & collect,” the company said in a press release. Aeon also plans to seek more partners both in Japan and around the world in order to be at the forefront of the digital era. Ocado, it should be mentioned, has also been chosen as a partner by other major supermarket groups around the world, including Kroger in the US, Casino in France, Marks & Spencer in the UK, ICA in Sweden and Coles in Australia.

Produce from farms run by Aeon Agri Create // Credit: Aeon

 

A platform to boost organic production 

Two other key initiatives from Aeon are in the area of organic food. Back in 2017, among the sustainable procurement goals the group set itself was that of boosting the sales ratio of organic products to 5% of all its agricultural products by 2020, also when Tokyo will host the summer Olympics. Aeon says it wants to contribute to “human, social and environmental health” through organic products, furthermore ones that are “cultivated, distributed and consumed naturally.” It also says it is “responding to our customer demands for safer, better tasting, and environmentally friendly food products.” However, while interest in organic produce is on the rise in Japan, “supply of organic products has not caught up with growing consumer demand,” it says, and “organic JAS certified producers in Japan account for only 0.2% of all farmers.” Given this context, in September 2019 the retailer announced another initiative, the new Aeon Organic Alliance (AOA). In a statement, it said this platform will boost the supply of organic products and help farmers overcome the burden of high organic cultivation costs and those incurred due to inefficient distribution, as well as giving them opportunities to gain new skills, exchange information and share and solve issues together. The AOA platform will be used to “centrally manage production, procurement, processing, distribution, and sale of organic agriculture products.”

Organic produce in Bio c’ Bon store in Japan // Credit: Aeon

 

14 new organic stores in Japan

AOA members will also have access to technological know-how for the acquisition of Global G.A.P. and organic JAS certification. Aeon has acquired such expertise via the 20 farms it directly manages across Japan. The farms are operated by the company Aeon Agri Create and three hold organic JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) certification, one of which is the fully organic 16 ha Saitama Hidaka Farm. Aeon’s organic farms will serve as distribution bases that collect products from growers who are members of its organic alliance, thus reducing distribution and delivery costs while also facilitating joint purchasing of materials necessary for cultivation, which in turn lowers costs. Furthermore, an AOA website will share what is happening in stores, including customer feedback, product line-ups, and sales performance, as well as overseas trends and other relevant information. It will also serve as a communication platform for connecting producers. Another group subsidiary, Aeon Topvalu, develops Aeon’s private brand for organics, Topvalu Gurinai, which is sold in group stores across Japan. Also providing a sales outlet for organic produce in Japan are the Bio c’Bon stores operated by Aeon in partnership with French firm Bio c’ Bon. There are now 14 such stores in Japan.

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Prices of US produce drop in Japanese retailers 

Prices of US produce drop in Japanese retailers 

 

Following the signing of a new FTA between Japan and the US, Japanese retailers have moved promptly to slash prices of US fresh produce. The new trade deal was signed in October 2019, but only came into effect on 1 January 2020. The major beneficiary of the agreement was the fresh produce sector, with the tariffs eliminated on blueberries, cranberries, sweet corn, broccoli and prunes. Other products which will see a staggered elimination of tariffs include fresh cherries and oranges.

According to Japan Times, Retailer Ito-Yokado held a six-day sale during which it cut the price of oranges by 10-20 per cent, while Aeon Retail plans to reduce kiwi prices and Seijo Ishii will discount US nuts.

TAGS: Japan, US, FTA

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Japan’s cherry production continues to fall

Japan’s cherry production continues to fall

 

Japan’s cherry production fell 5% in the 2018/19 campaign five to 18,100 tons, of which 16,200 tons was commercially distributed, according to FAS/Tokyo data. For the 2019/20 campaign, a further drop of 6% (to 17,000 tons) is predicted. The causes of this shrinkage are a slightly reduced acreage and the colder temperatures recorded during flowering in Yamagata prefecture, Japan’s main production area.

The US is the main supplier of imported fresh cherries to Japan.  The smaller 2018/19 US crop led to higher prices and a cut in Japan’s fresh cherry imports of 37%. This year’s larger crop is expected to result in a 31% rise in imports to 4,300 tons.  Japan’s cherry exports are negligible. 

 

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Decline in Japan’s peach output

Decline in Japan’s peach output

 

Japan’s 2018/19 peach crop was down 9.5% to 111,500 tons, as the hot June and July with little rainfall during the maturation period July reduced fruit size. The 2019/20 harvest is expected to be similarly impacted by the weather, with FAS/Tokyo forecasting a fall in output of 11.7% to 100,000 tons. In Western Japan, up to 10% of peach trees were damaged by a typhoon in autumn 2018, while frost and hail caused damage in the centre of the country. 

In 2018/19, Japan’s fresh peach exports totalled 1,726 tons (worth US$16 million). The main destination markets are Hong Kong and Taiwan. With a smaller crop expected, exports are forecast to fall 13% in 2019/20 to 1,500 tons. The US is the only country that can export peaches to Japan.

 

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South Africa spies openings for citrus in Japan

South Africa has seen a general decline in shipments of citrus to Japan. Since 2013, citrus volumes (mainly grapefruit) shipped to the Asian country have slipped from 62,000 pallets per year to 41,000 pallets. Japan represents a key grapefruit market for South African, with trade between the two countries stretching back to the 1970s. South Africa is now looking to increase exports of other citrus varieties. South Africa has been applying for a review of the protocol and the cold treatment requirements with no response as yet from Japan. Another complication is that Japan’s policy is to require access applications per variety of soft citrus, in contrast with international standards.

 

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First charter ship carrying Zespri Kiwifruit sets sail for China and Japan

First charter ship carrying Zespri Kiwifruit sets sail for China and Japan

The first charter vessel carrying Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit is heading to China and Japan following this season’s early start to harvest.

The Southampton Star departed from Tauranga Harbour yesterday evening carrying approximately 3,000 pallets of Bay of Plenty-grown SunGold Kiwifruit bound for Shanghai and Kobe. The vessel had earlier berthed in Gisborne where it picked up 1,600 pallets of SunGold Kiwifruit, marking the start of what promises to be another bumper crop.

Zespri Chief Grower and Alliances Officer David Courtney says in total, Zespri expects more than 600,000 pallets of kiwifruit to be shipped offshore this season.

“This will mean we’ll have more than 18,000 containers to ship this season. We’re also expecting to use 45 charter vessels – three to move our kiwifruit to Northern Europe, twelve to service our Mediterranean markets and thirty to take fruit up to Japan, China and Korea. “ 

For the first time, Zespri is also expecting to supply more gold kiwifruit than green this season.

“Last season we supplied 76 million trays of Green and 65 million trays of SunGold. Our latest estimates indicate we are on track to supply more than 75 million trays of SunGold this season, while Green is expected to be below 75 million trays.

“Most of our growing regions have had a very dry summer which means we’re certainly expecting a great tasting fruit this season,” Mr Courtney says.

Greater China and Japan remain Zespri’s two most significant markets and are expected to continue to perform strongly as Zespri expands into new areas within these markets.

“Zespri is still seeing strong growth in China and Japan led by increasing consumer demand for SunGold and more broadly, we’re seeing some excellent results in South East and East Asia.

“With the first shipment of Zespri’s SunGold Kiwifruit now safely aboard, we look forward to introducing the goodness of kiwifruit and its health benefits to consumers across the world and continuing to move closer to our goal of increasing our global kiwifruit sales to $4.5 billion by 2025,” says Mr Courtney.

 

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Australia and Japan partner up to grow fruit

New Australian project for protected cropping 

Australia and Japan have signed an agreement to work together to ensure year-round supply of fruit. At a summit in November 2018, the Australian and Japanese prime ministers agreed to devise a cooperative fruit supply programme, to take advantage of the two countries’ complementarily opposing seasons. Australian producers in the north-eastern town of Ayr will grow a local variety of melons using Japanese growing techniques to reproduce the quality and flavour that Japanese consumers prefer. The project will include a contribution from each country of farmland and technical personnel. Farmers will be able to monitor production via video link and offer instructions to staff onsite. Other products to be grown in the Ayr region include persimmon and strawberries, which will be exported to Asian markets. The aim is to target the gifting fruit culture that is growing among Asia’s expanding middle class. Australia chose Ayr as its production region in a bid to drive economic development in the area.

 

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Yello apple makes its debut at Interpoma

Created in Japan, exclusively harvested and marketed for Europe in Alto Adige - Südtirol, the new yellow apple Yello® made its world debut at Interpoma 2016 in Bolzano

The Japanese-bred yellow apple Yello® – being exclusively grown and marketed for Europe in northern Italy – made its debut on November 25 at the Interpoma trade show in Bolzano.

The new apple variety behind the Yello trademark, Shinano Gold, was created in Nagano in 1993 from a cross between the Golden Delicious and the Senshu. The Yello trademark is now registered in 60 countries.

In 2005, the tree was planted in South Tyrol, the major Italian apple growing area, for the first time and a decade later, in 2015, the first harvest of Shinano Gold grown in Alto Adige – Südtirol took place.

This year, an exclusive license for the production and marketing of Shinano Gold in Europe and the Mediterranean basin was signed between Japan’s Nagano Prefecture and VOG, the Association of South Tyrolean Fruit Growers’ Cooperatives, and VI.P, the Association of Val Venosta Fruit Growers’ Cooperatives.

Yello has smooth alabaster yellow-coloured skin and a sweet, crunchy and juicy centre, they said in a press release.

VOG director Gerhard Dichgans said Yello provides an excellent opportunity to break new ground in the yellow apple segment, historically the realm of a single traditional variety.

“With Yello we also want to write a new chapter in the markets in which the Golden Delicious has for years been left in the shadows, such as in the UK and Germany,” he said.

VOG chairman Georg Kössler said such innovation is key for the future of apple growing in Alto Adige – Südtirol, where over 150,000 Shinano Gold trees will be planted over 2017-18.

Sensory analysis
From a sensory perspective, the pleasant straw-yellow colour of the skin combines harmoniously with its intense and slightly exotic and tropical aroma. This intensifies in the mouth with the appearance of pineapple, pear, honey and lemon peel notes.
The flesh of the fruit is fine and compact, and combines perfectly with its crunchiness and juiciness. Consumers that prefer sweet apples will appreciate its low acidity, notable sweetness and aroma.

Characteristics
Peel: yellow
Flesh: sweet, crunchy and juicy
Shelf-life: excellent
Maturation: 2 weeks after the Golden Delicious
Productivity: like the Gala
Harvest: several stages required
Reduced susceptibility to russeting
Good resistance to bruising
Flesh firmness: 7-8 kg/cm² at harvest  
Sugar content: 14 – 16 ° Brix at harvest  
Acid content: 4 – 5 g/l MA at harvest

Pairings
Thanks to its slight tropical aroma and notable sweetness it goes well with exotic spices such as ginger, curry or rare varieties of pepper in preparations such as chutney or in sweet and sour dishes, giving them perfect sensory balance. The Shinano Gold apple is also excellent with mature cheeses such as Parmesan or blue cheese.