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A group of Japanese retailers visited Florida recently to experience Florida Grapefruit from the grove to the packinghouse.

For nearly a week in January, the group of eight produce buyers toured groves and packinghouses, ate Florida Grapefruit and met industry members while learning the benefits of buying and selling Florida Grapefruit. The tour was arranged by the Florida Department of Citrus.

“Japan is our largest export market, so it’s critical we form a connection with those responsible for introducing Florida Grapefruit to new customers,” said Michael Schadler, director of international marketing at the FDOC. “There’s no better place to do that than in the grove.”

Dan Richey, of Riverfront Packing, agrees. The group toured his groves and packinghouse as part of the visit.

“Coming to Florida gives retailers in Japan an opportunity to understand our industry and also enables them to project that understanding and enthusiasm for our industry to the consumers,” Richey said. “Seeing the magnitude of the size of the industry and the commitment of the growers is very important in Japan.”

During the 2013-14 season, 24 percent of fresh Florida Grapefruit headed to Japan.