May 24, 2019
Sapporo--A pair of Yubari melons sold for an all-time high of 5 million yen in this season's first auction at the wholesale market in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, on Friday.
The price substantially surpassed the previous record of 3.2 million yen marked last year.
Market participants broke into a roar when the winning bid was announced soon after the auction started.
The season's first auction for the famous melon, grown in the Hokkaido city of Yubari, is a seasonal tradition indicating the arrival of early summer in Hokkaido.
The winning bid was placed by Pokka Sapporo Food & Beverage Ltd., which has been selling products using Yubari melons since 2009.
After displaying the melons at locations including New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, the company plans to study their color and scent for product development.
Yoshihiro Iwata, the company's president, said, "We have been selling (our products) to cheer up the city of Yubari, which faces financial difficulties."
The company made the successful bid to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the launch of the products and the first auction in Japan's new era, Reiwa, said Iwata, 57.
Yubari, once a booming coal town in central Hokkaido, has been undergoing rehabilitation since its bankruptcy more than 10 years ago.
"We want to show the energy of Yubari by promoting melons," said Tsukasa Atsuya, 53-year-old mayor of Yubari, who visited the auction.
According to the agricultural cooperative of Yubari, the harvesting of Yubari melons started on Thursday. This year's melons grew well thanks to favorable weather, an official of the cooperative said.
It hopes to ship 3,844 tons of melons, racking up sales of some 2.2 billion yen. Jiji Press
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