Strawberry surges past tangerine for first time

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Strawberry surges past tangerine for first time

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Sales of strawberries surpassed tangerines in December, largely due to unusual weather in 2013. Provided by Lotte Mart

The sales of strawberries outstripped tangerines for the first December ever, according to data released by Lotte Mart yesterday.

For the first 26 days of December, sales of strawberries outpaced tangerines by 10 percent, said the nation’s third-largest retailer.

Tangerine sales dropped 6.3 percent in December compared to the same month last year.

The regular harvest time for strawberries begins in December, so their sales usually go up January through March. Tangerines, long the most-popular fruit in Korea in winter, normally hit the market in October and continue through February.

However, due to weather changes this year, strawberries were harvested earlier and in larger quantities, causing prices to fall compared to previous years.

In major strawberry-producing regions - Sancheong and Jinju in South Gyeongsang - harvests of strawberries were moved forward by two to three weeks because of hot weather that continued until mid-September. Fruits from those regions were shipped out from early November, allowing consumers to buy strawberries at retailers earlier than previous years.

As the production of strawberries has expanded across the country, owing to the government’s support for fruit growers, the total volume of the fruit has increased, causing wholesale prices to drop by 20 percent year-on-year.

On the other hand, this year was bad for tangerines, as summer arrived early and there was a severe drought, especially in Jeju, the biggest tangerine-growing region. That made this year’s crop smaller and less sweet than in past years and caused wholesale prices of tangerines to jump around 15 percent year-on-year.

“It is an unprecedented case for strawberry sales to exceed tangerines, the No. 1 winter fruit,” said Chae Soo-ho, a director at Lotte Mart. “The fruit market was largely affected by the summer weather.”

Lotte Mart says it plans to offer a 20 percent discount on strawberries from Jan. 2 to 8.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]


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