By Agence France-Presse
A pair of premium Japanese melons sold Monday for just a slice of the five million yen ($46,000) reached at auction last year, as the coronavirus bites hard.
The melons from Yubari on the northern island of Hokkaido sold for a snip at 120,000 yen at the season’s first auction — 40 times less than last year’s record price tag.
An official at the wholesale market blamed the coronavirus for keeping away rich corporate clients who compete to outbid each other for the most expensive fruit.
The virus meant the auction was smaller than usual and mostly made up of lower net worth individuals.
The successful bidder wanted to show gratitude and support for local farmers, according to local news agency Kyodo.
The wholesale market has been closed since April 20 as part of actions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but held a one-off auction to drum up support for local products.
Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost main island and a popular tourist destination, has seen a relatively high number of virus infection cases along with Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas.
The government is expected to lift a state of emergency for Hokkaido and the Tokyo area later on Monday.