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Okinawa vegetables hurt by rising prices

Date Posted: 2006-08-25

Okinawa herb vegetables are taking a beating at the marketplace because of high growing costs.

The islands’ natural vegetables have been gaining popularity over the past several years as mainland Japanese learned about the health benefits and their contributions to longevity. The vitamins and medicinal values of goya, a bitter melon, and handama, a sticky vegetable with violet colored leaves, has attracted many converts to the natural foods.

The internet and cooking shows on television are using a lot of Okinawa herb vegetables, and triggering more inquiries about the products, and that’s even boosted sales for mainland vegetable growers.

Farmers and wholesalers are saying Okinawa’s vegetables are simply expensive to raise and ship. Vegetables that were ¥20~30 several years ago are now selling ¥300~600 a bundle.

Goya, the bitter cucumber, was selling for ¥200 per kilogram, but now is ¥600.

“It’s difficult to sell at such a high price,” a vegetable shop owner says, “because our products are not much different than those raised on the mainland.” He says brokers come to Okinawa from the mainland and see the high prices, then turn the farmers down. A dire prediction from one broker is that even Okinawans will soon be priced out of the herb vegetables market.

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