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Japan’s mandarin consumption drops while lemon rises



The Japanese are eating less mandarins and more lemons, a USDA report on citrus in Japan reveals.

Since 2003, Japan’s annual household consumption of all fresh fruit has dropped 15% – from 97–82kg – but the rate of decline for mandarins has been greater – 30%, to  12.3kg, the report “Japan: Citrus Annual” says.

Prepared by the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), it says the drop in mandarin consumption may be the result of increased availability of other fruit varieties.

Other possible reasons cited are that Japanese consumer preferences have been shifting towards fruit that is not tart or tangy, and younger Japanese tend to eat less fruit which requires peeling.

However, mandarins remain one of the most popular fresh fruits in Japan, accounting for about 15% of fresh fruit consumption there in 2013.

“The Japanese industry has been trying to encourage consumers, particularly younger consumers, to purchase more mandarins by introducing ready-to-eat mandarin products such as cut fruit and jelly-fruit cups.”

“Japanese production, consumption and imports of mandarins are forecast to decline further in MY 2014/15, as farmers continue to exit and consumers substitute other fruits and sweets for mandarins,” it says.

Japanese imports of fresh mandarins source USDA.png

Increased lemon demand, production

Meanwhile, total numbers remain small but increased Japanese lemon production reveals underlying consumer preferences and shifts within Japanese citrus production, the USDA says.

“Growers seeking a higher return on their investment are substituting mandarin trees with different citrus tree varieties such as lemon.”

Unlike other fruit harvesting farms in Japan, the area harvested for Japanese lemons has been growing steadily over the last decade as Japanese growers respond to this increased consumer preference for local lemons.

It’s anticipated the 2014/15 campaign will see Japan’s lemon harvest area expand to 500 hectares with production volume slightly increasing to 10,000 MT – up 5% on current production estimates of 9,500 MT.

in Japan, fresh lemons are mainly used by the food service sector, as a garnish or food and beverage ingredient.

“Domestic lemon producers have aggressively promoted the freshness of their produce, as well as introducing some recipes online, and these efforts have slowly increased consumer demand.

Additionally, domestic lemon producers have been targeting safety-cautious consumers by advertising their produce as free of postharvest agrochemicals.”

“In MY2013/14, imports from New Zealand increased to 819 MT. New Zealand lemons fill into the market when Chilean and U.S. lemons are out of season. They are marketed as free of postharvest agrochemicals and sold at a premium price.”

Overall, the impact of citrus greening disease in Florida, tight global fresh orange supplies, a weaker yen and increased competition from substitutable products for Japanese consumer dollars should drive grapefruit, orange, and orange juice imports lower in the 2014/15 marketing year, the USDA predicts.

Japan lemon imports.png


Read the report.

Image: “Citrus unshiu-unshu mikan” by Tomomarusan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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The TPP and Fresh Produce Imports in Japan


What the Trans-Pacific Partnership could mean for fruit and vegetable exporters

Oranges are one of the possible opportunities for imports in Japan, a country where the population is steadily shrinking and consumption of agricultural products likely to decline, says the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

That’s because oranges are sensitive to price drops – lower prices bring higher consumption – and thus among the opportunities for growth that could be filled by imports, the USDA’s Economic Research Service said in its new report “Japan’s Agri-Food Sector and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)“.

It’s hoped a TPP agreement will see the reduction or even elimination of Japanese import tariffs, which could significantly lower the prices of imported products including oranges.

Demand strong in Japan for organic and local food

Organic food is another area where demand for agricultural products is increasing in Japan – against a backdrop of otherwise “sluggish growth in the volume of consumption” – because consumers worry about “food safety, quality, healthfulness, and production methods.”

There is significant concern about metabolic syndrome (including about excessive weight), another reason “foods and beverages perceived as heart-healthy – including fruits, vegetables, seafood, wine, and tea – are likely to be more popular as a result.”

Meanwhile, the “recent popularity of local food does not appear to be waning.” the USDA said, which is a growing opportunity for Japanese farmers.

Japanese farmers focus on ‘taste and appearance’

Among other insights into the Japanese market:

– vegetable production has been one of the strongest segments of Japan’s agriculture,

– Japanese farmers focus on taste and appearance and one of their strengths is the ability to differentiate from imports based on quality and providing very fresh products,

– Japan’s web of protection for agriculture includes tariff quotas and protection against price declines for Japanese vegetable and fruit growers,

– as well as open-field production, Japan grows vegetables in plastic-covered hoop houses and glass houses,

– Japan is self-sufficient in most temperate fruits,

– China poses a challenge to Japan in products including fresh and processed vegetables, and fruit, which generally arrive at a lower price than Japanese farmers can match.


Access the USDA report here.

To learn more about the Japanese fruit and vegetable market read our report here.


Photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons

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BORRAR 512px-Japan_flag_-_variant

Bananas, citrus and pineapples lead Japan’s fruit imports

Japan has always been very dependent on imports, especially for food and even more so for fresh produce. The total value of its fresh produce imports in 2012 was $2.5 billion, which included about 1.86 million tons of fruit and 862,082 tons of vegetables.


The leading imported fruits in Japan are bananas (59%), citrus (20%) and pineapples (9%). Most of the bananas are from the Philippines. Among citrus varieties, the leading import is the grapefruit, though Japanese people are increasingly preferring oranges. In 2013, 67% of imported citrus in Japan came from the US, 30% from Australia and 2.4% from South Africa, for a total volume of 30,745 tons.


The fastest growth in fresh produce imports in Japan is in avocados, which rose by 25% in 2012. Because it favours domestic produce, Japan imports only small amounts of products that it grows itself – such as stone fruit, apples and cherries.


Fruit imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Bananas 1,096,538, Pineapples 174,041, Grapefruit 151,413, Oranges 130,422, Kiwifruit 63,970, Avocados 58,555, Lemons & limes 55,895



Vegetables imports in Japan, 2012 (tons)

Onions 342,710, Pumpkin & squash  125,024, Cabbage 84,110, Carrots 82,051, Leeks 56,400



Due to its small land mass and high population density, Japan lacks an agricultural sector strong enough to export significant volumes. But of the fresh produce it does export, fruit is the leading type, especially apples, mandarins and pears. In 2012, it exported about 14,015 tons of fruit and just 956 tons of vegetables.

Japanese retailers undergoing concentration

Japan’s retail sector has been quite stable in the past few years, even if regional retailers, such as Universe and Hokkaido’s ARCS, have tended to merge to compete with national players such as AEON and Ito-Yokado, which both represent 40% of total Japanese retail. The top 5 national companies – AEON, Ito-Yokado, Uny, Daiei and Life Corp. – together woo 62% of food sales.

Nationwide retailers, including AEON and Ito-Yokado, generally source their foods through importers and wholesalers.


Consumption in Japan – elders are big spenders


Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs figures show nearly a quarter of household spending in Japan is on food. Japanese people value local products and in particular high quality and premium produce. The recent ecological disasters there have also increased awareness of environmental issues and safe production standards.

Japanese consumers can be split into two main groups: young active people and elders. In the last few years, a big range of healthy and ready-to-eat fresh produce has been developed to cater for each of these segments.

AEON is particularly targeting elders by opening its stores two hours earlier and with special deals attracting more of them onsite.

This is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared on page 26 of our latest issue, available online here. Each edition of Eurofresh Distribution magazine features a country profile providing insights into the opportunities and trends in different world markets.