Japan’s farms find way to soften fruit quarantine procedures for tourists

JIJI

Efforts are under way to put more fruit and farm products in tourists’ shopping baskets by simplifying exit inspection procedures.

In many cases, fruit and other farm produce need to be quarantined for 15 to 30 minutes at airports and ports before they can be taken out of the country. This is to inspect them for disease and pests, but the red tape sometimes deters visitors from buying food to take home.

Travel agencies and farms are now working together to make it easier for foreign tourists to pick up farm produce. They have jointly started a service that takes care of inspections while shoppers continue their sightseeing.

The tourists then pick up their purchases in fresh condition at airports or ports before departure.

This fiscal year, model projects have been implemented in Hokkaido and Fukuoka Prefecture, aiming to promote sales of melons and strawberries to tourists from Thailand and Indonesia.

Helped by the quarantine inspection agent service, sales have been brisk, a travel agency official said.

The government aims to lift annual exports of food items, including agricultural, forestry and fisheries products, to ¥1 trillion by 2020.

“If tourists bring home Japanese farm produce as souvenirs and they are appreciated overseas, export demand will increase,” an official in the agriculture ministry said.

The ministry also plans to play a role in this by expanding the coverage of a subsidy program started in fiscal 2015. Additionally, it will allow the sale and delivery of fruits and other farm products to foreign visitors at michi no eki (highway rest stops), on cruise ships and at local airports, officials said.