Okayama farmers start shipping 'Queen of Grapes'

The year's first shipments of Muscat of Alexandria grapes have begun in Okayama Prefecture, western Japan.

The seeded variety, dubbed the "Queen of Grapes" in Japan, is known for its distinctive flavor and balanced sweetness and acidity.

About 90 percent of the grapes of this type grown in Japan come from Okayama, where the vines have been cultivated for more than 130 years.

On Monday, grapes harvested by five farms were brought to a sorting and grading center in the Funao district of Kurashiki City.

Farmers graded the grapes by size, color and other features before shipping them.

They say they had difficulty adjusting greenhouse temperatures this year because of the warm winter, but they have been able to maintain the fruit's high quality.

The chief of the Funao fruits and flower center, Kataoka Tsuyoshi, says he is relieved the first shipments have now begun.

He says he hopes many customers will be able to enjoy the fruit while there are restrictions on outings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Okayama grapes will be sold in the prefecture and other areas such as Tokyo and Osaka. The shipments are expected to continue through September.