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19, March 2009
Japanese boutique farmers have discovered a new export market-Russia. High quality "Amaou" strawberries from Fukuoka in Southern Japan have recently become a very popular luxury food among Moscow's elite.
In Japanese high-end supermarkets these strawberries usually sell for between 5 and 10 USD per pack (500-1000 JPY) and are praised for both their flavor and health benefits by numerous affluent buyers. Due to market saturation at home, Japan's Farmer association (JA) has begun putting increased effort into exporting the product to Russia and its 140 million potential customers.
Fukuoka's "Amaou" strawberries are available every other week at Moscow's luxury super markets. Despite the high prices, set much higher than in Japan at 70-80 USD per pack (7,000-8,000 JPY), Moscow supermarkets sell out of the "Amaou" strawberries each weekend. Japanese tangerines and apples are popular buys as well.
According to Sun Globe Food, a Tokyo-based exporter to Russia, the main purchasers of the "Amaou" strawberries and other high end products come from Russia's wealthy, health-conscious classes. It is striking that "Amaou" strawberries currently sell better than strawberries from America and Holland which are only one quarter the price. A combination of reasons including the superior taste, smell, and appearance of the "Amaou" strawberries is thought to be behind this. In addition, "Amaou" strawberries are sold unadulturated while strawberries from Holland and America are factory-processed and cleared and therefore do not retain the juicy, freshly-picked quality of the "Amaou" strawberries.
Exports of "Amaou" strawberries began in 2003. In 2007, nearly 70 tons of the strawberries costing in excess of 1 million dollars were exported. The hot weather in other regions where the product is popular such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, causes the strawberries to be easily damaged. This is not an issue in Russia's cold environment and the strawberries remain fresh longer. In addition, the current rapid growth of Russia's economy promises positive future sales growth of the berries.
Test exports of 500 kilograms of "Amaou" strawberries to Russia started in 2007. Export increases have been linked to increasing strength of the brand name, which in turn has caused excitement for "Amaou" farmers.
The Japanese Agriculture Association planns to further stimulate purchases in Russian markets by cutting transport costs for large buyers. They are also considering use of Korea's Incheon International Airport for all transnational shipments in an effort to cut transportation costs.
March 10, 2009 Yomiuri Online