The season's first pair of Japan's luxurious Yubari melons were sold yesterday at ¥800,000 (US$7,258), the highest bidding price ever, at a Sapporo auction in the northern island of Hokkaido.
The revered orange-fleshed Yubari melons, similar in size to a cantaloupe, were sold to Shikisya Co, an online produce seller in Hokkaido.
Last year, the premier melons were sold for ¥600,000 a pair to Ogasawara Shoten, a souvenir shop in Chitose.
After being on a shrine-like display, were later auctioned online for ¥120,000 a piece, according to Naohiro Kawahara, the seller of the melons.
An average 1.3kg Yubari melon, renowned for their high quality and sweet taste, normally sells for ¥2,000 to ¥8,000.
"For us, it is one of the festive celebrations to mark the first shipment of Yubari melons," Hisashi Kurosawa of National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations at Yubari City said yesterday.
A hybrid created in 1960, seedlings of the Yubari King are planted under vinyl greenhouses in February and 105 days later the first melons are carefully handpicked. The harvest continues until August.
Only 154 of about 230 farmers in the former coal-mine town of Yubari have the right to plant the melon seeds.
"The farmers face heavy hardships in growing these melons," Kurosawa said. "But Yubari melons are our proud product as a sign of the summer approaching."