Popularity, value grow for Fukushima-grown species of baby's breath

Photo: "Showa Kasumiso" sees sales top 600 million yen this year as trust in its quality grew.

The "Showa Kasumiso" (baby's breath) brand grown in Fukushima Prefecture's Oku-Aizu inland region, including the village of Showa, is sold at higher prices than before as decades of efforts to improve its quality has paid off. Annual sales have topped 600 million yen for the first time this year, reaching 607.73 million yen. Shipments declined in volume last year, but higher prices boosted the total value of sales. The mountainous region has experienced an increase in the number of younger people seeking to grow the flower species, providing an encouragement to the local industry that is committed to raise the plant's brand power. Sales of the flower have been on the rise since its cultivation started in Showa in 1982, according to the kasumiso division of JA Aizu-Yotuba, a local chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) group. They exceeded 400 million yen in 2017 and 500 million yen in 2021. Shipments have totaled 4.87 million plants thus far in 2022, down 280,000 from a year earlier. But sales grew in value by about 44 million yen. The flower is priced at 125 yen per plant, up 16 yen from last year. One official said the rise in the per-plant price was quite large in view of nationwide price trends. JA and municipal officials attributed the higher price largely to the upgrading of a storage facility used in the collection and shipment of agricultural produce and seafood (commonly known as a "snow chamber"), which has made it possible to ship the flower species in a cool condition. This has led to improved quality and a stable supply, resulting in higher demand from floral markets across Japan, they said. In line with the rise in the popularity of the Showa Kasumiso, there has been an influx of people to the village to try their hand as flower growers since 2015. This year, seven people settled for a record annual total while 10 others are scheduled to follow suit in 2023. The village offers them a comprehensive training program in cooperation with the prefectural government, through which local authorities hope cultivating know-how will be succeeded to further improve product quality. "I feel the work is rewarding and it gives me a sense of achievement when I see many people delighted at the flowers I have grown," said Kenichi Oyama, 40, who moved in from Tokyo last year. He shipped 3,000 plants this year and aims to expand to 8,000 to 10,000 in the future. (Translated by Kyodo News)