Imports of chrysanthemums for adorning graves reach fever pitch

JIJI

Imports of chrysanthemums are peaking ahead of the start Friday of Higan week, when many Japanese bring the flower to the graves of their ancestors.

Japan’s largest distribution center for imported chrysanthemums near Narita International Airport was busy Wednesday making last-minute checks of imports from Malaysia.

Chrysanthemums are traditionally put on graves during the Buddhist festival week of Higan, which comes twice a year for the spring and autumn equinoxes.

According to Tokyo customs officials, imports of chrysanthemums have been steadily increasing for years because domestic shipments have not kept pace.

Last year, imports reached a record 319 million stems, accounting for 17 percent of all chrysanthemums distributed in the country.

For this year as well, the import volume from January to July exceeded that in the first half of 2012.

This might be because the major chrysanthemum export countries have changed. In 2002, the Netherlands supplied 9 percent of total imports. However, five Asian exporters now hold a 99 percent share. Malaysia is the leading exporter with 58 percent of the pie. China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are the other top exporters.

Yasuko Mori, president of a Narita-based chrysanthemum import firm, said demand for Malaysian products is strong because they have a variety of colors. She also said their quality has improved thanks to Japan’s technical assistance.