In addition to broader worries about youngsters - hair style, video game habits and inexplicable taste in clothes  to name a few - declining consumption of citrus among young people is a concern for Japanese fruit traders. For other insights into the important Japanese citrus market, read on for more from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service:

Japan Citrus Annual 2009

Report Highlights: In MY2009/10, "on-year" for Japanese tangerine trees is expected to offset decrease in planting area. Japanese imports of grapefruit are estimated to keep steady, while imports of oranges are expected to increase slightly. Lemon imports are expected to rise as domestic stock situation normalizes. Lower consumption of fresh produce among young consumers remains a concern. Japan lifts MRL-related sanctions on U.S. lemons and oranges.

Production Japan does not produce grapefruit. Consumption According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), in 2008 Japanese annual consumption of grapefruit was approximately 2.5 kilograms per household with total expenditures of $7.90 (694 yen).* This is the average consumption per (two-or-more people) household.

People ages 60 to 69 ate 3.3 kilograms of grapefruit in 2008; while people in ages from 30 to 39 ate 1.4 kilograms. People under 30 years old ate only 0.7 kilograms. Given the state of the economy and the general trend among young consumers to eat less fresh produce total annual consumption was down from last season.

* The exchange rate of 87.80 yen per dollar is based on the Nikkei News quote on December 3, 2009.

 Trade (Imports) The United States is the largest supplier of fresh grapefruit to Japan, supplying approximately 63 percent of total Japanese imports. South Africa is the other major supplier to Japan, sharing approximately 34 percent of total grapefruit imports. For MY 2009/10, post estimates Japanese imports of fresh grapefruit to be approximately 180,000 metric tons, a similar to MY 2008/09. The United States supplied 115,600 metric tons of fresh grapefruit in the MY 2008/09, valued at approximately $125 million (CIF).

Japan is still in the midst of an economic recession with relatively high unemployment and fairly conservative consumers. While Japan has been in a recession for more than 14 months, Tokyo grapefruit-traders hope for a minor recovery in 2010. The current strong yen situation also encourages Japanese importers to increase their trade.

The current exchange rate is 87.80 yen per dollar based on the Nikkei News quote on December 3, 2009, while the exchange rate was 95.52 yen per dollar approximately a year ago. As these two elements may offset each other, post anticipates imports to remain steady. According to Tokyo traders, in MY 2009/10 Japanese imports of Florida grapefruit are expected to be approximately 6.0 million cartons or 102,000 metric tons, similar to MY 2008/09.

 The weight per carton for Florida grapefruit is approximately 17 kilograms. In November 2009, the new Florida grapefruit crop arrived in Japan marking the start of the Florida grapefruit season. The trade volume is expected to increase during the Christmas holiday season and it is expected to peak around March and April when the grapefruit flavor reaches maturity.

Traders also report that the new crop has smaller sized fruit due to relatively short rainfalls during the growing season but assure that the crop has high quality fruit with good flavor. The shipment ratio between white grapefruit and red/ruby ones is expected to be 40 and 60 percent, respectively. Texas and California are also important suppliers of grapefruit to the Japanese market.

Texas supplies ruby/red grapefruit in the fall season and California’s peak season is in early summer. South African grapefruits are largely sold in the summer season and therefore do not compete directly with Florida fruit in the Japanese market. South Africa’s new crops arrive in Japan in June and are actively sold until Florida’s new crops arrive in the fall. Lately, South African grapefruits have played an important role in the Japanese market, fulfilling approximately 34 percent of Japan’s grapefruit trade.

In May 2009/10, Japanese traders expect the South African shipments to be approximately 4.0 million cartons (including shipments from Swaziland) or 60,000 metric tons, similar to MY 2008/09. The weight per carton is approximately 15 kilograms. South Africa (including Swaziland) supplied 60,700 metric tons in the MY 2008/09, valued at approximately $41.4 million (CIF).

Post anticipates that South African sales will remain about the same as importers do not want to depress prices by flooding the market. Israel supplies a green-colored grapefruit variety called “Sweetie” to the Japanese market but it does not compete with U.S. grapefruit. The trade volume of Sweeties is not large, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 metric tons each year. The peak season lies in December and January. According to industry sources, this year’s crop quality is fairly good. Hence, in MY 2009/10 Sweetie sales are expected to return to normal levels with sales of approximately 300,000 cartons or 5,000 metric tons.