Pair of Yubari melons fetches $19,000 in season's first auction

A pair of premium melons from Yubari City in northern Japan has fetched 3 million yen in the first auction of the year. That's about 19,000 dollars. The luxury fruit is a popular gift in the country.

Bidders' calls rang out on Friday morning at a wholesale market in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture.

About 1,700 Yubari melons harvested the previous day went under the hammer.

A Yubari-based vegetable and fruit packing company was the top bidder for the third consecutive year.

The firm's president, Noda Kiyomichi, said this year's melons are remarkably rich in flavor and he was happy to have acquired the pair.

Noda said he hopes many people will visit Yubari and enjoy the melons because he will be giving them away for free in June.

Local agricultural cooperative officials say the melons are growing well this year thanks to good weather.