In what might be the unlikeliest indicator of a post-pandemic recovery, a pair of premium Japanese melons have sold for $24,800 at auction, over 22 times more than last year’s virus-hit price.

The 2.7 million yen price tag at the season’s first auction for the famed Yubari melons is still a snip compared to records for the prized produce.

“This year’s recovery in price can be seen as a result of buyers looking to encourage people by putting in higher bids,” a wholesale market official told AFP.

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The successful bidder was a local manufacturer of baby food, whose president said he hoped the purchase would spread a bit of a good cheer.

“Although there’s still plenty of negative news, I hope this can help people smile and overcome the coronavirus pandemic,” he told national broadcaster NHK.

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Seasonal fruit offerings in Japan routinely attract massive sums from buyers seeking prestige and plenty of free publicity.

In 2019, a pair of Yubari melons went for a record five million yen but the price plunged to just 120,000 yen last year, with growers blaming the virus for keeping away rich bidders eager to outdo each other.

The melons come from Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost main island and a popular tourist destination.

The region is currently under a virus state of emergency along with nine other areas including the capital Tokyo.

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