ANA, Japan's largest airline, is targeting Hong Kong's appetite for next-day delivery of US$100 mangoes and other food to boost its cargo as shipments of Panasonic and Sony televisions slump.
Hong Kong, the biggest destination for food and live animals exported by air from Japan, is buying more Japanese beef, cherries and other premium items as the number of rich in the city increases. Expanding demand is prompting the airline to add more cargo flights in the region.
ANA is speeding up the transport of farm goods by avoiding Tokyo and using its cargo hub in Okinawa, in southern Japan. Rising exports of food and other perishables is helping the carrier withstand a slump in the shipment of electronics as Sony and other Japanese companies pare domestic manufacturing.
"Japanese seasonal fruits have a reputation for high quality in Asian countries," said Akira Okada, ANA's head of cargo. "In the future we want to be able to provide next-day delivery to the Chinese mainland as well. There are a lot of rich people in China."
The nation's exports of food and live animals by planes almost doubled in value in the past decade to 36 billion yen (HK$2.8 billion) last year, from 19 billion yen in 2002, according to figures from Japan customs. Hong Kong is the biggest importer, with 20 billion yen in purchases last year.
In comparison, television shipments by air have slumped, with about 661,000 units sent overseas last year from 2.5 million in 2002, according to Japan customs. Japanese companies have reduced or stopped television production in the country as they strive to cut costs and stem losses amid increasing competition.
In 2009, Sony closed a factory that made monitors and projectors in Ichinomiya while Panasonic cut its investment in two flat-panel factories at home. Hitachi ended its television manufacturing last year and Toshiba has also stopped domestic television production.
Yamato Holdings, Japan's largest express delivery company, in May said it would offer next-day deliveries direct to customers in Hong Kong and Taiwan from the Okinawa hub.
Oranges from Ehime prefecture, western Japan, sell for HK$338 for 1.2kg on Yahoo Hong Kong's website, while up to 700 grams of grapes from Kagawa prefecture, western Japan, are priced at HK$458. Customers are also paying up to 10,000 yen each for mangoes from Kyushu, southern Japan, Okada said.