The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is set to launch full-fledged efforts to prevent “outflows” of domestically developed high-end fruit varieties to other countries.
A number of seeds and saplings of Japanese high-end fruit varieties have been taken out of the country without permission and grown abroad against a backdrop of their global popularity.
The ministry will consider stricter regulations and a possible law revision, as such outflows of fruit varieties to foreign countries can hinder growth in exports of agricultural and food products.
Japan is trying to boost the amount of exports of high-end fruit, with the total annual shipments of such items nearly reaching ¥1 trillion.
Shine Muscat, a Japanese-developed high-end grape variety, is being grown in China and South Korea without permission, for sale in Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, according to the ministry.
Shine Muscat grapes that have been grown in China and South Korea “are lower-priced than Japanese-produced ones,” said an official at the agricultural cooperative of Fuefuki, Yamanashi Prefecture, which exports the variety.
Since 2006, Shine Muscat has been protected in Japan as an intellectual property under the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Law.
But it has not been registered as a fruit variety abroad as the government did not expect it to be exported, according to the ministry.
The ministry found Shine Muscat grapes grown in China and South Korea were being sold in foreign markets two years ago. But it could not stop sales because the registration deadline for variety protection had passed in both countries.
In March this year, the ministry put together a panel of experts to discuss measures to prevent any problems similar to the Shine Muscat case from happening again in the future, such as a revision to the plant variety law.
The panel will also consider ways to promote the development of new varieties.