The opening of the Japanese market is the biggest thing to happen to Vietnamese lychee farmers this year. Vietnam is the world's third-largest producer of lychees, after China and India. It ranks second only to Madagascar in exports of the fruit.
Although fresh lychees are hard to find in Japan and most of the fruit sold here is frozen, past plans to export to the Japanese market faltered after Vietnamese growers failed to clear agriculture-related quarantine requirements.
But that has now changed. Agriculture ministries from both countries have confirmed the safety of lychee grown on 19 designated farms in Bac Giang. The approved fruit meet certain farming standards and post-harvest criteria, such as fumigation with methyl bromide, a pesticide.
Vietnam is set to export 100 tons of lychee to Japan this year. One ton arrived last month and was sold at retailers, including Aeon. A pack of about 10 sold for about 500 yen ($4.70) at Aeon supermarkets. That works out to a nearly 10-fold premium compared with a retail price of about 30,000 dong to 50,000 dong ($1.30 to $2.20) per kilo in Hanoi.