Japan looks to South Africa to cultivate its late-ripening yellow apple

The Kimito apple, a new yellow-apple variety developed by Japan’s Hirosaki University, will soon be grown in South Africa thanks to a partnership with Wismettac Foods.

First registered in 2016, this late-ripening apple is known for its excellent storage properties as well as being light on labour.

According to the university, Kimito apples have a white flesh and a refreshing sweetness, and its core is more watery than the more typical yellow-skinned apple varieties.

An all-year apple

Wismettac Foods is a major distributor of Japanese fresh and packaged foods with a global presence. According to The Asahi Shimbun, Wismettac will now partner with a South Africa-based business to register and trademark the fruit in SA.

Currently, the seedlings, which have passed local quarantine inspections, are being test-cultivated in a partner’s orchard in South Africa.

Due to the contrasting seasons, the partnership will mean Kimito apples will be available year round as officials aim to create a strong market for exports to Asia and elsewhere.

Under the agreement, Hirosaki University will receive a licensing fee for the intellectual property rights associated with the apple variety in South Africa.

According to The Asahi Shimbun, numerous Japanese-developed farm product varieties have been cultivated abroad without permission, badly grown, and deprived Japan of potential export revenue.

To combat this, Wismettac Foods is implementing the “club variety” system. This approach ensures that intellectual property rights over a plant variety are protected, with only club members granted licenses to produce and market the variety.

Why choose South Africa?

Takahiro Masuda of Wismettac Foods explains that cultivating apples in South Africa provides strategic advantages, including its proximity to European and Middle Eastern markets.

“With the seasons being the opposite to what they are in Japan, apples from South Africa could be marketed in the off-crop season, when shipments from Japan drop,” Masuda explained.

“The opportunity to offer Kimito apples, which are as good in quality as those produced in Japan, at prices that befit the market will also help us develop new sales channels.”

Wismettac is also looking into the option of exporting the Kimito apples from South Africa to Asia to cater to the vast and growing mid-income class.

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