The first commercial shipment of kabocha Japanese pumpkins exported by Gatton-based Qualipac has landed in Japan.

It’s the first step towards Queensland securing a share of Japan’s $108 million kabocha import market.

Qualipac Sales, Marketing and Business Development Manager Kees Versteeg said the shipment represented a significant breakthrough for the company, which had never grown kabocha before.

‘We’ve had to learn how to grow kabocha and when to harvest it and invest in new export packaging to meet the rigorous specifications of the Japanese market,’ Mr Versteeg said.

‘It has been a steep learning curve for everyone.’

Kabocha is a dietary staple in Japan and, unlike many pumpkin varieties, it’s perfect for microwave-ready meals because it retains its structure, taste and firmness when cooked.

Japan’s kabocha import market is currently dominated by New Zealand and Mexico.

The Queensland shipment was the result of a partnership between industry and government that aims to open up this market to Queensland farmers.

Qualipac worked with 2 South East Queensland growers, a Japanese importer, TIQ, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and The University of Queensland (UQ) to make the shipment happen.

The company also received funding from DAF’s Growing Queensland’s Food Exports program.

Mr Versteeg said the shipment was a great example of a strategic long-term approach to export, with growers, government and industry players working together.

‘We have been very fortunate to have the Japanese importer working with us and giving advice every step of the way, including support from their existing suppliers,’ he said.

The first shipment of almost 10 tonnes of Queensland kabocha landed in Japan on 10 June and was sold at Kasumi supermarkets in Chiba and Saitama Prefectures near Tokyo.

Feedback from the Japanese importer Wismettac has been positive and the company is hoping to undertake another trial shipment later this year.

Agriculture is one of Queensland’s traditional export strengths identified in the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017-2022.

If you’re a primary producer interested in export opportunities for your fresh produce, contact TIQ Japan or one of our regional TIQ offices.