16.6.22

Juicy Ruby Roman Grapes: Most Expensive Yet Scarce. Opportunity for African Youth in Farming

a bunch of ruby roman most expensive grapes
Japanese Ruby Roman Grapes are regarded as the most expensive grapes in the world with a single bunch fetching between $90 and $450. Their unique features that include being fragrant, sweet, juicy and less sour has earned ruby roman grapes the status of a luxury fruit with a lot of demand but limited supply. 

Different varieties of grapes are actively grown in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania. Considering that the weather is conducive for growing grapes, youth eager to get rich farming would be smart to research the business of growing ruby roman grapes to produce highly demanded and delicious fruit as a profitable crop. And if you are a grape farmer, the points made below can be relevant in improving your yields.

Here below is a video report on why ruby roman grapes are so expensive, with a few key points from the video outlined below:

Background:

  • It was not until 2008 that the first roman ruby grapes went up for sale. 
  • The effort to create them started in 1995 when local grape farmers and Ishikawa's agricultural research center decided to create a new breed of large red grapes.
  • In the start, there were dozens of varieties planted, mixture of red varieties, blue varieties and more. The pollen flew from one of the varieties, it was a cross by chance and it got a fruit. it was very lucky. If those different varieties had not been planted, roman ruby grapes would not be born.

Culture and features of ruby roman grapes:

  • First thing is Japanese Ruby Roman Grape's size. Just one is four times the size of an average grape. Inspectors look at a colour card and the grapes, and if it matches most prefered colour, one bunch of the grape can fetch between $90 and $450. 
  • Size and colour define these luxury grapes. There is no other variety in the world that is so large and red. Ruby roman grapes variety is only one that exists. In Japanese culture, fruits are considered as a gift and luxury item. Supermarkets often do not sell fruit with deformities.
  • No matter the grade, all the the roman ruby grapes have a uniquely sweet flavour. Ruby roman grapes are very fragrant and elegantly sweet, and its less sour. And very juicy. When you peel the skin, the juice will drip down. The juice splashes when you put it in your mouth.

Quality control and grading of grapes:

  • Each grape bunch is scrutinized for the colour, and size of each individual grape grain, which must weigh at least 20grams, and 30 milimeters in size. Next, sugar content in the grapes is measured with a non-destructive sugar meter which must be over 18 percent. 
  • Superior grade grapes make up 90 percent of harvest and special superior grade grapes make 10 percent. Superior grapes can cost between $90 and $140 dollars, while special superior grapes cost between $180 and $450 but one category costs more than these two.
  • Highest grade grapes are called premium. Average grape grain size weighs 20grams, while for premium grapes, each grain must weigh at least 30grams. Only one or two bunches a year qualify as premium. Farmers hope to sell one bunch of premium grapes for over one thousand dollars. Two bunches of premium grapes were recorded in 2021, while none in both 2020 and 2019. 
    juicy and succulent ruby roman grapes @youthinfarming.org

Farming process and monitoring:

  • Harvesting starts in July just in in time for Japanese gift giving holidays, ochugen. Grapes are only grown in Ishikawa prefecture and cultivated in green houses where farmers have better control over the growing process.
    ruby roman grapes farmer in greenhouse
  • Each grape is monitored and manicured so that every grain in a bunch looks identical. To produce grapes of a proper size, use of a grape thinning device and a pair of scissors. Grape farmer: it helps to determine which grains and bunches to remove. 
    • Improving grape shape and beauty: It is not good if the colour is uneven in a grape bunch. With scissors, we adjust the size of the grain evenly or make the shape more beautiful.
    • Controlling light: grapes need to be exposed to certain amount of light to get right colour. You have to be more careful about amount of light more than other grape varieties. One way to control light is by adding or removing leaves near the vines.

      To confirm that enough light is entering the greenhouse, farmers have devised a tool. farmer: to measure brightness in greenhouse by holding up camera of a smartphone, the percentage of the open space above the bunch is quantified, using a privately developed application, which informs farmers on how much light they need to add or subtract.
    • Controlling temperature. When temperature in greenhouse is hot, over 30 degrees celcius, ruby grapes do not turn a nice red colour but becomes whitish. Farmer opens the sides and ceilings of the greenhouse to keep it as cool and as ventilated as possible. 

Challenges: 

Not all ruby grapes farmers grow, will be up to standard which is why supply is limited. In 2020, only 25,000 ruby roman grape bunches were up for sale, a tiny fraction of all grapes available for sale in Japan which was 163,000 metric tons.

In conclusion, growing ruby roman grapes may be a viable way to get rich farming though further research on the conditions and other requirements needed to earn high yields is needed. One can start with making contact with Japanese farmers in Ishikawa to inquire about ruby mistakes to avoid, grapes diseases, where to get seedlings, and care needed to produce high yields. 

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