Taiwan is making a strong push to return to the expanding Japanese market for a citrus fruit that is considered a health product. Hu Jong-i, director general of the Agriculture and Food Agency under the Council of Agriculture has stated that Taiwan, that previously exported hirami lemon juice to Japan from 2014 to 2016, aims to resume exports next year.
The Hirami lemon, also known as shiikuwasha and flat lemon, is a small, green citrus fruit of the mandarin family that grows wild in the southwest of the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa as well as mountainous areas of eastern Taiwan. The high-priced lemon, which contains large amounts of vitamin C and carotene, became popular in Japan in 2000 thanks to a TV program boasting of its nutritional benefits.
Taiwan began actively planting hirami lemons in 2008, mainly in the southern county of Pingtung. The area planted for the lemon has grown from 45 hectares to 280 hectares this year due in part to government incentives.
The Hirami lemon has been included in a government program encouraging farmers to replace the "green gold" of betel nut plants with other crops. If more hirami lemon trees are planted, Hu said, it will not only be good for the environment, but also benefit consumers.
"Our goal is to make Pingtung a county of longevity like Ogimi Village in Okinawa," Hu said. The lemon is one of the signature agricultural products of Ogimi, which is famous for the longevity of the local people.