A pair of melons grown in the northern Japan city of Yubari, Hokkaido, sold for 120,000 yen ($1,100) in the season's first auction on Monday, 2.4 percent of the price at last year's auction amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
Prices for a couple of premium cantaloupe at the wholesale market have generally gone over above 1 million yen in recent years, with the all-time high of 5 million yen paid last year and 3.2 million yen in 2018.
"The result (this year) mirrors the situation of the novel coronavirus pandemic," said an official at the wholesale market.
The successful bidder, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler based in Kushiro, Hokkaido, said it opted to bid in the auction this year to show its gratitude and support for local farmers. It will display the melons at a shopping center in Sapporo on Monday and start selling them Tuesday.
The wholesale market halted auctions on April 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak but decided to open as a one-off as part of efforts to promote sales of Yubari melons, which are considered high-quality and often sent as gifts in Japan.
Hokkaido, the country's northernmost main island and a popular tourist destination, has seen a high number of virus infection cases along with Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas.