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BARTOW, Fla. – Florida Citrus industry leaders met with Consul-General of Japan Kenji Hirata at the Department of Citrus headquarters on Tuesday to continue to build upon the longstanding relationship between Florida Citrus growers and Japan.

Hirata, who is based in Miami and oversees Japanese-U.S. relations in Florida, is tasked with strengthening the bonds between the U.S. and Japan. Hirata cited Florida Citrus, particularly Florida Grapefruit, as an integral focus of his work.

The relationship is equally important for the Florida Citrus industry, Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Ned Hancock said.

“Japan’s love of Florida Grapefruit is unrivaled around the globe and we are honored so many Japanese consumers have welcomed us into their homes over the years,” Hancock said. “The Florida Citrus industry values its longstanding relationship with Japan and hopes to see it continue for decades to come.”

On Tuesday, Florida Citrus grower and packer Dan Richey provided Hirata and his advisor, Kazuiki Kataoka, an overview of the history of Florida Grapefruit in Japan. Chairman Hancock and FDOC Executive Director Shannon Shepp provided an update on the current state of the industry and FDOC Global Marketing Director Samantha Lane provided a summary of current marketing plans in Japan.

Dr. Jim Syversten, of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, provided an update on how the industry is combating pest and disease to ensure Florida Grapefruit continues to be available to Japanese consumers.

Florida first began shipping grapefruit to Japan in the 1970s and the Florida Department of Citrus has promoted Florida Grapefruit in Japan for more than 35 years. Japan remains the largest export market for Florida Grapefruit.

About the Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry.  Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels.  The industry employs 50,000 people, provides an annual economic impact of $7.2 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.