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Crops wither, prices up amid intense heat wave

TOKYO >> The prolonged rainy season and subsequent heat wave have hindered the growth of crops across Japan, sharply reducing supply and hiking prices.

On Aug. 17, the mercury hit 106 degrees in Hamamatsu, tying the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan. Marutaka Farm in the city’s Kita Ward normally produces 70 tons of cherry tomatoes annually. Since mid-August, however, it has discarded about a third of its harvest because of poor quality. Greenhouse temperatures sometimes reach nearly 122 degrees, and work stops early to guard against heatstroke.

Gerbera flowers from Hamamatsu have also been affected, by both the pandemic and the heat. The city is the largest producer in Japan. Demand has decreased because events calling for flowers have ceased, and flowers are smaller than usual. In August, shipment volume dropped by 30%.

Out in Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, hot nights are affecting the growth of shine muscat grapes, which thrive on temperature differences between day and night.

Farmer Junichi Mitsui is concerned that the sugars in his grapes will not develop because of the consistently high temperatures. When sugar content falls below a set level, shipments are held. This could force him to sell backed-up inventory at rock-bottom prices.

Meanwhile, prices on leafy vegetables have been high. Lettuce and cabbage produced in Tsumagoi, Gunma Prefecture, have been withering or are small in size, yet during Aug. 10 to 12 retail prices of cabbage rose 19%, while lettuce was up 12%.

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