Kiwifruit imports into Japan hit an all-time high in 2018, exceeding the 100,000-tonne mark for the first time in the country’s history.
Some 104,949 tonnes were imported from January to November, according to data released by Tokyo Seika Trading: almost 14 per cent higher than 2017’s record 92,681 tonnes, which made kiwifruit the country’s third-largest fruit import.
New Zealand Zespri kiwifruit accounted for 100,624 tonnes of the total imported, registering a 19 per cent rise over the same period last year.
The fuzzy fruit continues to buck the prevailing trend of declining import volumes and falling fruit consumption in Japan. Importers cite stellar sales in September (up 204 per cent over the prior month), when kiwifruit prices were at their highest in a decade and overall fruit imports fell to a ten-year low, as proof of the product’s steadfast popularity.
October’s volumes were also impressive, with a 73 per cent rise over the prior year period, according to Tokyo Seika. Meanwhile, November imports were up 56 per cent.
Hisao Takeda of importer Yamano Company attributes Japan’s kiwifruit import growth to New Zealand marketer, Zespri.
“Kiwifruit is really one of the only imported fruits that is growing in volume [in Japan],” says Hisao Takeda of importer Yamano Company. “Zespri International supplies about 99 per cent of imported kiwifruit and its strong points are the supply of consistently high-quality fruit, constant volumes and a very active marketing programme: it organises more than 9,000 in-store demonstrations in supermarkets each year. In 2018, Japan’s kiwifruit import volumes reached their highest on record.”
Avocado, mainly from Mexico, is another import commodity registering sales growth in Japan. Total volumes over the 11-month January to November 2018 period were up 23 per cent compared to the previous year, reaching 68,131 tonnes, according to Tokyo Seika Trading. November saw a 40 per cent rise in imports over the prior year, while October recorded a 20 per cent increase compared to 2017.
“The Japanese are enjoying eating avocado more and more,” says Takeda. “Consumers are learning how best to enjoy them thanks to information received at retail stores, as well as on-line. The avocado is the most popular fresh produce item featured on the popular recipe website, Cookpad.”
Table grapes, meanwhile, surprised traders with a +50 per cent November volume surge, and recorded a 16 per cent rise in total imports for January-November 2018 to 34,205 tonnes.
The US supplies around 35 per cent of import volumes, followed by Chile (33 per cent) and Australia (27 per cent), according to the USDA. Seedless varieties are increasingly sought-after, says Takeda, as time-poor Japanese consumers look for quick and easy-to-eat healthy food solutions.