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A pair of Yubari melons sold for ¥2.7 million in the first auction of this season at a wholesale market in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, on Monday.

The price, the highest among all pairs of Yubari melons auctioned at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market on the day, was more than 22 times the maximum price, of ¥120,000, recorded in last year’s first auction.

Last year’s top price had dived from a previous record high of ¥5 million, in 2019, as the novel coronavirus began to spread rapidly around the country.

A total of 466 melons from the city of Yubari in Hokkaido were put up for auction at the market on Monday. Yubari melons are known as a seasonal delicacy, with the first auction for the fruit at the Sapporo wholesale market indicating the arrival of early summer in Hokkaido.

The ¥2.7 million melons were purchased by Hokkaido Products Ltd., a maker of baby food in Sapporo. The company will quickly freeze the melons and send them as gifts to a total of 10 families with children, to be selected by lottery from among households that file applications on social media.

“We want to cheer up people with the Yubari melons at a time when hardships from the pandemic are continuing,” Hokkaido Products President Iori Kage said.

According to Yubari’s agricultural cooperative, harvesting of this year’s Yubari melons started Sunday.

Weather was unstable in early spring, but the quality of the melons is fine because producers’ efforts paid off, officials of the cooperative said.

Some Yubari melon producers face labor shortages, as foreign technical trainees have been unable to visit Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the cooperative still aims to ship 3,675 tons this season and generate some ¥2.2 billion in sales.

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