Korean consumers fascinated by expensive, unconventional fruit

Date: 2021.10.05

Fruits that come with high price tags are flying off the shelves, prompting farmers to switch to these new crops, as they purport to bring higher incomes.

According to Shinsegae Department Store, orders for its Chuseok holiday gift box comprising apple mangos and Shine Muscat grapes increased by 27 percent compared with the previous year, surpassing by far the 4.7 percent growth of the total sales of fruit gifts.

Shine Muscat grapes are a variety of seedless green grapes first developed in Japan, boasting high sugar content. They are more expensive than conventional grapes. At E-mart's online shopping mall, a 2.5-kilogram box containing three bunches of Shine Muscat grapes comes with a 66,600 won ($57) price tag, while a 3-kilogram box of top-grade Campbell grapes grown in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, is sold at 19,500 won.

Despite the high prices, Shine Muscat grapes took 53.6 percent of the total grape sales at E-mart from August of last year to April of this year, which is up 22 percentage points from the same period a year earlier. E-mart expects that it will occupy to 70 percent of the total grape sales this year.

As demand for the grapes is soaring, their cultivation is also increasing. According to the agriculture ministry, the cultivation area of Shine Muscat grapes in the country totaled 3,579 hectares this year, nearly doubling from 1,867 hectares in 2019.

Farmers are also increasing the production of apple mangos, a variety of mango with reddish skin that is sweeter than the conventional type. At SSG Food Market, a single apple mango weighing 300 grams from Jeju Island is priced at 19,800 won.

Local governments are encouraging farmers to grow unconventional subtropical fruits to increase their incomes. According to the Rural Development Administration, the cultivation area of subtropical fruits totaled 170 hectares as of 2019, up over 50 percent from 2017. Mangos and passion fruit topped the list in terms of cultivation area, followed by bananas and dragon fruit.

These fruits can now grow in Korea due to rising temperatures. Local governments are supporting farmers switching to these crops, as the temperatures are expected to continue rising. If global warming continues at its current pace, 62.3 percent of Korea's cultivation area is expected to become subtropical by 2080, some reports show.

Read more here.

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