23 October 2016
Mainland shoppers buy Japanese melons and grapes in bulk at the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market. Photos: HKEJ,
Mainland shoppers buy Japanese melons and grapes in bulk at the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market. Photos: HKEJ,

Japanese fruit prices in Hong Kong surge on mainland buying

Hong Kong people just love Japanese food. That’s why prices of imported delights from Japan go up steadily regardless of the exchange rate of the yen. 

There appears to be a new element for the rising prices of Japanese food, especially high-end Japanese fruits – bulk buying from mainland Chinese.

A local paper reported recently that mainlanders stuff up their cross-border vans with goods bought at the Yau Ma Tei fruit market, already a famous tourist spot for mainland bargain-hunters.

Japanese green grapes are the best-sellers. That’s because these luscious grapes are sold there at only HK$250 per 500 grams, or about half the price they are sold on various mainland online shopping websites.

That spells trouble for local high-end supermarket shoppers who are likely to see a surge in fruit prices in the run-up to the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Although mooncakes are the signature giveaways for the Moon Festival, a growing number of people are opting for healthier choices such as starfruit, strawberries and grapes which are much more appreciated by the recipients.

Mainland shoppers cause headaches not only to domestic consumers but also to wholesalers who find themselves at a loss when they try to gauge their demand.

When you deal with mainland shoppers, you have to contend with their habit of collective explosive buying (爆買). 

Japanese retailers got a taste of this consumption pattern last year, when all their inventories from pharmacies to toilet seats were wiped out by a surge in demand from Chinese consumers.

But when the retailers started to ramp up their supplies this year, Chinese demand turned much weaker as Chinese tourist arrivals in Japan declined.

While Chinese taste for consumer items may change as quickly as the weather, demand for Japanese goods from Hong Kong has not shown any sign of weakness.

For sure, Hong Kong consumers have long been under the spell of Japan’s soft power, which is measured by how many people fall in love with Doraemon and, most recently, Pokémon GO.

It goes without saying that Hong Kong, not mainland China, has been the No. 1 importer of Japanese foodstuff since 2008.

Last year, Japan’s exports of foodstuff to Hong Kong amounted to US$1.48 billion, accounting for over 24 percent of Japan’s exports under the category, according to the Trade Development Council.

It’s amazing how a tiny city with a population of seven million can beat a giant country with 1.3 billion people in terms of Japanese food consumption. 

Of course, we can always blame the less-than-smooth relations between China and Japan for hampering a more robust trade between the two Asian powers.

Anyway, mainland food lovers can always go to Hong Kong to satisfy their craving for Japanese goodies.

This is all good news for Hong Kong’s tourism and trade sectors.

Mid-Autumn Festival kicks off the buying season. The next big shopping sprees are Christmas and Lunar New Year.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong people who complain about rising prices of Japanese goods in the territory can always go directly to the source, that is, by visiting Japan.

That’s the reason why Japan is always the top destination for Hong Kong shoppers and food lovers.

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EJ Insight writer

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