A pair of premium melons in Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido fetched 3.5 million yen ($25,000) at the year's first auction on Thursday, securing the event's second highest bid on record.

The bid for the melons grown in the city of Yubari exceeded the previous year's by 500,000 yen but failed to top the record bid of 5 million yen in 2019.

A pair of Yubari melons fetch 3.5 million yen in Sapporo, northern Japan, on May 25, 2023, at the year's first auction for the signature product of the Hokkaido city of Yubari. (Kyodo)

This year's successful bidder was Hokuyupack Co., a Yubari-based company that packs fruit and vegetables.

At the May 2020 auction, when COVID-19 was spreading, a pair of Yubari melons fetched just 120,000 yen, but bids rose to 2.7 million yen in 2021 and 3 million yen in 2022.

According to the local cooperative, nine farms on Thursday auctioned off 262 of the melons, which are known for their orange flesh and sweetness, with the peak harvesting period in late June through July.

A total 3,258 tons of the melons, worth around 1.93 billion yen, are expected to be shipped this year.

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

Hokuyupack said it will offer pieces of the purchased melons for free at a local farmers market on June 3 and 4.