“I Have Never Experienced This; I’m Worried,” says a Farmer in Wakasa
In Fukui Prefecture’s Wakasa Town, where Fukui plums are the local specialty, Japanese plum trees are blooming a month earlier than the average year, due to the warm weather. An earlier bloom will result in lower rates of pollination, leading to the high possibility of a poor harvest. Plum farmers are gaining an impending sense of crisis, voicing sentiments such, “I have never experienced a bloom this early; I’m worried about the harvest.”
According to the Fukui Prefecture Nishuu Region Agriculture and Forestry Department, the plums greatly rely on insects, such as honeybees, for pollination; with the bloom beginning in January, where there is little activity from the bees, it will be difficult for the trees to bear fruit. Even after blooming, there is still a chance for sudden bout of a cold wave or snow, which will cause the flowers and buds to freeze and wither; in addition, if the light rainfall continues, the flower’s pistils will dry out, making it difficult to hold on to pollen.
Wakasa Town has the largest Japanese plum production area by the Japan Sea; across the area from Mikata Lake through the Tsunekami Peninsula, there are approximately eighty thousand plum trees, producing about 800 to 1,000 tonnes of Fukui plums every year. In 2019, the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) processed approximately 630 tonnes of plums, lower than the average year; but with the current climate, this year’s harvest may be even lower.
According to the Fukui Local Meteorological Office, the current year’s average temperature has been 2.5⁰C higher than average, as logged by an observatory closest to the plum farm, in Mihama Town. Normally, Benisashi and Kensaki (two types of plums) bloom between late February and early March; but with each tree already having ten to twenty flowers in bloom, more buds will continue to sell.
“It can’t be helped that it has been a warm winter. But at the very least, I’m hoping that it will continue on without snow, so the blooms don’t spoil,” said a local plum farmer (aged 37), as he sagged his shoulders.