Thai fruit can be seen in more and more Japanese homes. TV sales channels, free trade agreements, contract farming and food safety measures have all helped this happen.
Thai fruit exporters thriving in Japan by Phusadee Arunmas
Thai fruit exports to Japan are enjoying bright prospects amid rising demand and a better knowledge of consumption and cooking methods.
The Aeon retail group is one of the big customers for Thai mangoes exported by P&E Techno.
Thailand this year will also begin exporting fresh pineapples under the duty-free quota of the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA).
Pimjai Matsumoto, the managing director of P&E Techno Co, a leading mango exporter to Japan, said her company had spent 60 million baht to install a vapour heat-treatment facility at Kasetsart University to control mango quality prior to export.
The facility is operated around the clock to supply mangoes to department stores in Japan.
P&E expects to export 800 to 1,000 tonnes of fresh mangoes to Japan this year, up from 500 tonnes last year, initially receiving a large order from the Aeon Department Store group.
Mangoes are purchased from contract farmers at a minimum price of 60 baht a kilogramme.
Ms Pimjai said P&E had also invested in a sensor that can inspect the insides of mangosteens to ensure the fruit is not rotten.
As well, the company sells Thai fruits directly through Japan's Shop Channel television network. It received orders for 40 tonnes within four hours of its first broadcast.
TV and website sales each contribute 10% of total revenue, with the vast majority still generated by supermarket and convenience store sales.
"If the quality is good, we can definitely sell them. This year, we'll start selling the Phulae variety of pineapples [from Chiang Rai province]," she said.
All Thai fruits are sold with instructions for peeling, eating and cooking such as recipes for raw mango salad, ripe mango pudding, cakes and jellies.
Thai mangoes retail for 290 to 500 yen (104-179 baht) apiece, while mangosteens go for 80-150 yen.
Amparwon Pichalai, executive director of the Thai Trade Center in Tokyo, forecast growth of 20% for Thai fruit exports, especially with the new fresh pineapples.
Under the JTEPA, Thailand may export up to 100 tonnes of pineapples not exceeding 900 grammes apiece tariff-free, increasing to 500 tonnes after five years.
Amounts exceeding the quota are subject to a 17% tariff.
She said Thai fruits were sold mainly in Aeon's 1,300 branches, while Ito-Yokado with 300 branches is negotiating to buy Thai fruits.
The Thai Trade Center expects mango exports to grow by 50% this year. It has promoted mangoes for the past three years, and Japanese consumers now have a basic understanding of the fruit, especially the Mahachanok variety, a name bestowed by His Majesty the King.
Mangosteen exports as well are expected to double from last year, when there was little output.
The centre also aims to export 50 tonnes of pineapples this year through promotions urging Japanese consumers to eat them fresh and use the fruit as an ingredient in curries
Japanese demand for fresh fruits amounts to 5-6 million tonnes each year, of which 3-4 million tonnes are produced locally, such as oranges, apples, pears and grapes
The major items imported by the country include bananas, pineapples, grapefruits, mangoes and avocados.
Last year, Japan imported 1.82 million tonnes of fresh fruits worth US$1.99 billion (60 billion baht). Of that, 1.26 million tonnes were tropical fruits worth $989 million.
The Philippines was the main supplier at 90% of total imports of bananas and pineapples. Thailand was the sole supplier of durians and mangosteens and third-largest supplier of mangoes, after Mexico and the Philippines.
"The Japanese prefer fresh over processed fruits. They also love to give expensive fruits as gifts, so quality is essential. People here don't like very sweet fruits, but rather ones with a bit of a sour taste. But they want graded fresh fruits in similar sizes," said Ms Amparwon.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Thai fruit exporters thriving in Japan, 15/04/2011, Phusadee Arunmas, link)
Fruit Industry Vocabulary
thriving - very successful ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างสูง
prospects - the possibility that things will happen, especially something good ความเป็นไปได้ the chances of being successful (See glossary)
enjoying bright prospects - the future looks good
X amid Y - X is happening while Y is happening
demand - the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses
consumption - money spent by households and families on goods and services (See Wikipedia) การบริโภค
retail - to sell directly to the public for their own use ขายปลีก
tariff - a tax on imports or exports
tariff-free - without tariff (don't have to pay tax when importing)
duty - same as "tariff"
quota - the limited quantity that is officially allowed (for example, an import quota for clothing from an exporting country )
duty-free quota - the amount of goods that can be imported into a country without paying a duty or tariff
Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) - the free trade agreement between Thailand and Japan (See Wikipedia)
spent - used ที่ใช้ไป
install - put a piece of equipment somewhere and make it ready to be used ติดตั้งอุปกรณ์
vapour - gas or extremely small drops of liquid which result from the heating of a liquid or solid ไอน้ำ
treat (verb) - deal with or process something in a certain way (example: the vegetables were treated with chemicals to protect them from insects)
treatment (noun) - processing something in a certain way
vapour heat-treatment - the use of heated air to warm fruit to temperatures that kill pests such as fruit flies (See description at USDA and read academic paper)
facility - a building used for a particular purpose
operated around the clock - the factory or equipment was used or operated without stopping, 24 hours a day (24-7)
initially - at the beginning ในเบื้องต้น
contract - a written (or oral) agreement that is legally binding สัญญา
contract farming - the practice of farming for a large company under a contract that fixes the price the farmer receives and specifies the crops that must be grown (See Wikipedia)
contract farmer - a farmer who is growing crops for a larger company under a contract
sensor - a device or piece of equipment that provides information about what is happening at some place (by reacting to physical changes such as the amount of heat or light that exists somewhere) เครื่องรับรู้, อุปกรณ์รับรู้
inspect - to look at something carefully ตรวจสอบ
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
rotten - spoiled; decayed เน่า เสีย
network - a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. เครือข่าย
television network - "a telecommunications network for distribution of television content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small number of broadcast networks. Many early television networks (e.g. the BBC, NBC or CBS) evolved from earlier radio networks" (See Wikipedia)
broadcast - to send out a programme on television or radio กระจายเสียง,กระจายข่าว
Shop Channel - the name of Home Shopping Network's television network in Japan
Home Shopping Channel (HSC) - a TV channel that displays things that viewers can then buy (See Wikipedia)
X contributes Y% to Z - X is Y% of Z
revenue - income from taxes or business activities รายได้
majority - more than 50% of a group, more than half ส่วนมาก, เสียงส่วนมาก, ส่วนใหญ่
the vast majority - much more than 50% (probably around 80% to 90%)
generated - created
convenience - the quality of being suitable for your purposes and needs and causing the least difficulty ความสะดวกสบาย
convenience store - a small easy to get to store near the home or workplace like 7-11
X variety of Y - X is one type or kind of Y
peel - take the skin off a fruit or vegetable
raw - not cooked
ripe - a fruit or vegetable that has grown to its full size and is ready to eat สุก
pudding - a soft sweet dessert food eaten at the end of a meal (See Wikipedia)
jellies - dessert foods made with sweetenedand coloured gelatin that shakes back and forth when moved (See Wikipedia)
executive - the highest level managers in a company
forecast - a statement about what will happen in the future based on information available now พยากรณ์
exceeding - passing a limit, going beyond
promoted - marketed (let people know about them and provide information about how goo they are, so that they will buy them)
consumers - people who buy things (individuals and families)
bestowed - (of something valuable or important) given มอบให้
expected - believe will happen คาดว่า (จะเกิดขึ้น)
double - to become twice as big, twice as much or twice as many เพิ่มเป็นสองเท่า
ingredient - one of the substances that are combined to make something ส่วนผสม
tropical - relating to the hottest area of the Earth, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn ในเขตร้อน
sole - only เดี่ยวๆ
processed - treated in some way, e.g., treated with chemicals, cut, etc.
essential - necessary and important ที่จำเป็น ที่สำคัญ
graded - sorted into groups with different levels of quality
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