Coronavirus Means Prices are Dropping on Japan's Most Expensive Fruit

Hokkaido Food Coronavirus 2020.05.26
Japan's famous Yubari melons are selling for just over 100,000 yen... a shockingly low price for the gourmet fruit.
Yubari melons, also called Yubari King melons in English, are like the champagne of fruits. Named after the small city of Yubari in Hokkaido, where they are cultivated in greenhouses with exquisite care, these extremely sweet melons aren't exactly the kind of fruit you'd find sitting around the house. The very cheapest Yubari melons, with the most imperfections, easily go for around 10,000 yen (approximately 100 USD). The perfectly round high-grade melon beauties? They go for prices out of this world.
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Top-grade Yubari melons are sold at auction every year, where companies bid sky-high prices for a chance at the world's most perfect melons - perfectly round, blemish-free (and hopefully delicious enough to deserve such fame). In recent years, top sales prices have broken record after record, most recently in 2019 when a pair of Yubari melons sold for the incredible sum of 5 million yen (close to 50,000 USD).

The early months of 2020 certainly brought turmoil to Japan, though, and the COVID-19 outbreak has caused unexpected consequences around the country. Among other things, coronavirus has dragged down the going price for Yubari melons. That's because people have never been buying this fruit at their neighborhood grocery store as a special treat for themselves. Extremely expensive fruits, and other portable gourmet treats purchased from grocery areas in high-end department stores, have long been a popular gift among Japanese people with the money to spend. But coronavirus has meant that department stores are closed, and people are having fewer social gatherings. There's no reason to give fancy gifts, and nowhere to buy them anyway.
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There's no reason to believe that this year's Yubari melons are any less delicious or any less beautiful than the ones that sold for 5 million yen last year, and farmers have still been at work - the agricultural cooperative of Yubari reported a good harvest for 2020. But the lack of demand has meant a drop in prices. So the auctions began on May 25, 2020 with a pair of top-quality, high-grade Yubari melons selling for only 120,000 yen (approximately 1,200 USD). For the uninitiated this might still seem like an unbelievable price for just two cantaloupes, but it shows a massive change in just a matter of months. 

As a business that depends on high prices, it seems possible that the Yubari melon industry might have trouble surviving lowered prices like this long-term, but the official end of the state of emergency all over Japan means that major Japanese department stores have already begun reopening. Perhaps now is the moment to search out a pair of Yubari melons for your own, and taste the sugary-sweet melon while the prices are within reach.
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