Yamanashi grape crop resilient after snow

Kyodo

Grape growers in the city of Yamanashi, hit hard by record snowfalls in February, harvested the year’s first crop of Delaware grapes Wednesday.

The farmers, located in the nation’s biggest grape-producing prefecture of Yamanashi, plan to deliver the freshly harvested Delaware grapes mainly to the Kanto and Kansai regions for use as seasonal gifts.

According to prefectural officials and the Yamanashi branch of the National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations, about 80 percent of all greenhouses in the region collapsed under snow in February. They said that many vines were broken by the weight of the snow.

Prefectural authorities predict that this season is likely to see about a 30 to 40 percent drop in shipment volume compared to the average, pushing up prices.

Fortunately, however, the heavy snow did not significantly damage open fields in the prefecture, where about 97 percent of its grapes are grown, the sources said. They also said that local grape growers will start their annual harvest around July, as usual.

“Our concern is that consumers may think that Yamanashi grapes are so damaged they are not available this season, and may seek to buy grapes from other areas,” said a JA federation official. “We will continue supporting farmers who are dealing with damage, and will do our best to deliver tasty grapes to consumers.”

Yoshihide Ogawa, 63, a grape grower in the city of Yamanashi’s Kamiiwashita district, said his farms did not suffer any major damage, thanks to his efforts to keep excess weight off the greenhouse roofs. Ogawa said that about 10,000 juicy grape clusters with 20 percent sugar content successfully ripened in his greenhouses.

“These precious fruits overcame the harsh conditions (of the heavy snowfall),” Ogawa said. “I hope many people will enjoy them.”