A pair of premium melons in Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido fetched a price of 2.7 million yen ($24,800) in this year's first auction on Monday, about 23 times higher than the winning bid of last year.

The highest ever bid for Yubari melons, a signature product of the city of Yubari, was 5 million yen in 2019. The price in last year's first auction of the fruit grown in the city was a much lower 120,000 yen reflecting subdued economic activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hokkaido Products, a baby food maker, offers the highest price for a pair of Yubari melons in the season's first auction in Sapporo on May 24, 2021. (Kyodo)

This year's successful bidder was Hokkaido Products Ltd., a local manufacturer of baby food.

"I put in a bid hoping to encourage farmers," the president of the company Iori Kage told reporters.

The company plans to offer the purchased melons free through its social media site, doling them out to 10 selected families with children.

According to Yubari's agricultural cooperative, 102 local farmers plan to ship a total of 3,675 tons of melons worth around 2.16 billion yen this year.

Premium fruits often fetch very high prices at first auctions in Japan, with buyers using successful bids for promotional purposes.