TOKYO: While Europe swelters through one its hottest spells on record, much of East Asia is suffering just the opposite – an unusually cool and cloudy summer that has ruined vacations and prompted experts to predict some of the worst harvests of rice and vegetables in decades.
Persistent clouds and showers in Japan have driven up the price of produce by as much as 120%, along with cutting into sales of hot-weather staples like beer and air conditioners.
Bad weather in South Korea, meanwhile, is expected to translate into a haul of low-quality fruits and vegetables.
“It's all a bit difficult to sum up,'' said Yosuke Nakaya, a spokesman for Japan's Central Meteorological Agency. “It's a rather abnormal summer.''
In a typical year, a few weeks of rain throughout most of Japan are followed by generally sunny and stiflingly muggy days in late July and August. This year, however, the number of cloudy or rainy days has been unusually high.
Bombarded by complaints about inaccurate forecasts this summer, Japan's weather agency maintains there is still a 50-50 chance it could turn out to be a normal summer.
But for many farmers and vacationers – and the many businesses that profit off them – that's little consolation.
“It's been a difficult summer,'' said Mikako Izumizaki, a spokeswoman for Asahi Breweries, Japan's biggest beer producer. “We're running short on time.''
Izumizaki said July sales were off by 18% from a year earlier, and noted that August is when beer sales normally spike.
In Kobe, a port city in western Japan, prices of lettuce and potatoes have shot up 120%, according to spokeswoman Miho Kakimoto at Coop Kobe, an agricultural wholesaler.
South Korea is facing similar problems.
The country has been awash in 140% the average level of rainfall for this time of the year with only 70% the amount of sunshine, said Kim Jong-koon, a weather expert at the government's Korea Meteorological Administration. – AP
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