Japan’s commercial cherry production in marketing year (MY) 2019/20 is estimated to fall six percent to 15,200 tons on colder temperatures during the flowering stage and reduced acreage. Meanwhile, strong U.S. production portends an increase in imports of fresh cherries, projected to soar 31 percent to 4,300 tons in MY 2019/20. As weather related damages over the past two years continue to impact Japan’s peach growing regions, FAS/Tokyo forecasts a production drop of nearly 12 percent to 100,000 tons in MY 2019/20. Currently, no country has market access for fresh peaches due to phytosanitary concerns. Imports of U.S. nectarines are expected to remain stable at around 300 tons.
Gradual decline of the crop area for cherry production in Japan continued in MY 2018/19, primarily due to aging farmers, the lack of successors, and shortages of labor. As a result, fresh cherries planted and harvested area in MY 2018/19 declined to 4,740 hectares (ha) and 4,350 ha, respectively. FAS/Tokyo forecasts that this year-on-year reduction trend will continue in MY 2019/20, cutting an additional ten hectares in planted and harvested areas.
The prefecture with the largest production of fresh cherries is Yamagata, located 250 miles north of Tokyo, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of domestic fresh cherry production. Yamagata has high temperature fluctuations between day and night, providing ideal growing conditions for sweet cherries. Yamanashi prefecture, the second largest production area in Japan, is located south of Yamagata. Yamanashi’s cherry production sites are located at the base of mountain ranges, which provides an adequate growing climate.