COVID-hit Japanese travel agency seeks agriculture growth

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Major Japanese travel agency HIS Co. has decided to venture into agriculture to diversify its sources of income after a difficult period in which the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the tourism sector.

HIS Farmers Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of the travel agency, was established in April to produce and sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

The company is not ignoring its core business, however, as it plans to incorporate farm tours to allow people to have hands-on farming experience.

The company has started growing cherry tomatoes on a farm north of Tokyo in Hasuda, Saitama Prefecture, with the produce available for purchase through its website. The company plans to expand its sales channels from May.

The undated photo provided shows his tomatoes picked from a farm in Saitama Prefecture. (Kyodo)

HIS has also secured a 5,000 square meter property, including abandoned farmland, in Nichinan, Miyazaki Prefecture, to produce grapefruit. It plans to ship the products from the southwestern region of Japan in 2025 after expanding the cultivation area.

It plans to work with local farmers to make processed products from the fruit juices it produces, the company said.

HIS Farmers plans to branch out across the country, including the city of Yamagata, after its parent company and the northeastern Japanese city struck a pact last year to revitalize the region through tourism and farming.

At each location, the HIS unit will introduce Farm Experience Tours to provide an in-person experience of growing and harvesting. She plans to offer her fresh produce at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, operated by the parent company in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

The travel agency has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, posting a net loss for the second consecutive year that ended in October last year.

After soliciting new ventures within the company, she launched a team in 2020 to oversee an agricultural project.

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