Fukushima officials see silver lining in radioactive cloud as Beijing mulls lifting food ban

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Friday, 11 May, 2018
Prefecture troubled by years after nuclear disaster welcomes talks between Beijing and Tokyo that could lead to Chinese ending import restrictions
More than seven years after their prefecture became the scene of the second-worst nuclear disaster in history, trade officials in Fukushima have welcomed reports that Japan and China will discuss lifting Beijing’s ban on imports of food from the region.
 
Most of the discussions focused on developments on the Korean Peninsula, but progress was made on bilateral issues – including food exports from Fukushima and the introduction of a hotline to prevent accidental clashes in the air and at sea – enhancing the recent sense that relations between Beijing and Tokyo are improving after several tense years.
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The Fukushima officials told the South China Morning Post that they hope that translates into Beijing reopening the door to exports of agricultural and fisheries products.
“Fukushima prefecture has been strictly monitoring food products since the accident and I strongly wish for the Chinese government to quickly lift the import restrictions based on the scientific evidence,” said Takahiro Ichimura, director of the prefecture’s Trade Promotion Council.
“Fukushima prefecture is extremely large, covering an area equal to Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures as well as Tokyo combined,” he emphasised. “Regarding the nuclear accident, the evacuation area near the power plant is an extremely small part of the prefecture.”
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Fukushima is also an important rice growing region for Japan and is famous for its seafood. In 2010, the year before the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was crippled by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a series of towering tsunami, around 153 tonnes of food were exported.
Fifty-four countries and regions imposed temporary import bans immediately after the double disaster, when radiation levels increased to unsafe levels and the Japanese government swiftly stopped shipments of food until safety could be guaranteed.
Since then, 27 countries have lifted their restrictions and the prefecture shipped 210 tonnes of agricultural products abroad last year, mainly to Malaysia and Thailand, although there has been a reluctance among some consumers to buy the products because of the lingering fear of radiation poisoning.
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Overseas exports closer to home – those to South Korea, mainland China and Taiwan – have not picked up, however, due to the same concerns about radioactivity.
At the moment, China bans imports of food from 10 prefectures in northeast Japan and even requires food from prefectures not subject to its total ban to include a certificate indicating its origin. Some products from outside the 10 prefectures are also required to undergo radiation inspections.
As recently as March, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor turned down a request during a visit by Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono to lift the city’s ban on imports of fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures.
Lam also insisted that targeted radiation testing on products from the rest of Japan would continue.
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China considers easier access for Japanese food

 
2018/5/10
Li, Abe agree on experts’ panel to discuss new regulations
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A farmer harvests rice in Tottori Prefecture, Japan in October 2017.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday signed an agreement to set up a joint body of experts to discuss the relaxation of an import ban on Japanese agricultural products, according to Japanese media reports.
 
The ban on products from Fukushima and nine other Japanese prefectures was imposed by China after the 2011 earthquake and nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, reflecting fear of contamination.
 
An agreement was also reached on Wednesday to change the rules for rice exports from Japan to China.
 
Japan has been trying to increase its exports of agricultural products, aiming to reach 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) by 2019. China was the third-largest overseas market for Japanese produce last year at $900 million, according to Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
 
Japan has been lobbying foreign countries to repeal their bans on the nation’s produce. A dispute on this issue with South Korea led to litigation at the WTO, which ruled in favor of Japan on February.
 
“Japan wants international recognition for agricultural products from Fukushima and its vicinity,” Zhang Jifeng, a research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in an interview with the Global Times.
 
“If the ban is lifted I would buy products from Japan,” said a shopper who frequents a Japanese-owned store in Beijing. “I expect that imported products will have passed strict safety requirements on both sides. The Japanese today are consuming their own products and they seem fine,” she said.
 
The agreement also opened the way for more Japanese rice sales to China. Since China first allowed imports of Japanese rice in 2007, all shipments of the grain had to be polished and fumigated at designated facilities in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of capital Tokyo.
 
The approved polishing facilities have been expanded from one to three, and fumigation facilities from five to seven, distributed across Japan. This change is expected to help sales of Japanese rice to China.
 
 “With more facilities for processing rice, Chinese consumers will have more options to buy rice from different Japanese regions,” an official with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, who only gave his name as Nozoe, said in an interview with Global Times.
 
“Having more facilities will also help speed up the process and lower costs, so we will able to provide Japanese rice at a more agreeable price for Chinese buyers,” he said.
 
Rice is the most consumed grain in both China and Japan, but annual per capita consumption in China, at 105 kilograms per year, is about double that of Japan with 54, according to Japanese government data.
 
Customs data show China imported 4 million tons of rice in 2017, mostly from Southeast Asia. And Japan is trying to expand its presence in China by appealing directly to consumers
 
 “We have now an antenna shop in Shanghai, where you can taste rice from different areas of Japan. E-commerce sites and Japanese restaurants in China also increasingly offer Japanese rice,” said Nozoe. But challenges remain.
 
An antenna shop refers to a physical store run by a government entity with the purpose of market research.
 
“Sales are constant but not very high,” a woman surnamed Zeng, owner of an online shop offering imported food, told the Global Times.
 

Dilution is not the Solution! Fukushima soil to be spread all over Japan and, ergo, in export food

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Do not use soil contaminated with radioactivity for public enterprise!
 
My name is Ohashi, a housewife living in Nipponmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.
 
Demonstration project is going to be carried out for reusing polluted soil that was released to eliminate radioactive substances diffused in the environment due to TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in public enterprise projects!
 
The place is our Nipponmatsu Ichihara District.
Radioactive contaminated soil decontaminated was promised to be transported to an intermediate storage facility. However, contrary to this promise, the Ministry of the Environment is about to transform the policy to reuse polluted soil in public enterprise nationwide.
 
They shall say after conducting a demonstration project in Nipponmatsu City, “Safety and usefulness have been confirmed.”
 
To overlook this leads to using the contaminated soil in public use nationwide.
 
Therefore, we ask for your approval to ask the Minister of the Environment to withdraw the plan of “Dirty Soil Reuse Demonstration Project”. Please lend me your support! Thank you
Sign the petition here;
 

Hong Kong will not lift post-Fukushima ban on some Japanese food

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In meeting with Tokyo’s foreign minister, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says restrictions will stay in place for now, while government reaffirms commitment to enforcing sanctions against North Korea
 
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Sunday rejected for the time being Tokyo’s official request that the city lift restrictions on Japanese food imports brought in after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, citing public safety.
 
The chief executive also reaffirmed that the city had been strictly enforcing sanctions against North Korea, during her meeting at Government House with Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono, as he wrapped up his two-day visit to Hong Kong on Sunday.
 
Lam expressed her reluctance to lift the food ban, after Kono raised the possibility during the meeting.
 
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Hong Kong banned the import of fresh produce and milk from the prefecture and the four neighbouring prefectures, while conducting targeted radiation testing on fresh produce from the rest of Japan.
 
“She emphasised that it is incumbent upon the [government] to safeguard public health and hence effective measures must be in place to ensure food safety and to maintain public confidence,” a statement issued by Lam’s office read.
 
“Under this premise, the Food and Health Bureau will maintain communication with the Japanese authorities to review the latest situation and adopt appropriate measures in relation to the import ban.”
 
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said her department had been in touch with Japan’s agriculture ministry over the ban and that “food safety is the primary concern”.
 
Kono was the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Hong Kong for bilateral matters since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, according to the Japanese foreign ministry. Earlier on Sunday, he visited the Aeon department store in Tai Koo, where he tasted food from Aizu in Fukushima, including rice, sake and ramen – exempted from the ban because they are not fresh produce.
 
“It is scientifically proven it is very safe and those people from Hong Kong who come to Japan [are] already eating spinach and cucumbers from Fukushima. And I think Hong Kong people who have been to Japanese restaurants have eaten Fukushima vegetables and fruit,” Kono told NowTV. 
“I would like to tell the Hong Kong people to come to Japan and enjoy the food in Japan.”
 
The city’s importers and legislators earlier urged Lam to be cautious about Tokyo’s request to lift restrictions on Japanese food imports, saying the government had to make sure all imports would not be contaminated with radiation.
 
Hong Kong is the largest export destination of Japanese agricultural, forestry and fishery products.
 
The two officials’ exchange came ahead of a North-South summit on the Korean peninsula next month, and US President Donald Trump’s possible meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un before the end of May.
 
UN reports in recent weeks said Hong Kong companies were being used as fronts for North Korean businesses, to help it circumvent UN sanctions. Last month the US slapped sanctions on nine companies outside North Korea that were working on Pyongyang’s behalf. Two were based in mainland China and five in Hong Kong.
 
Lam took the opportunity to say her government was following the sanctions.
 
“Mrs Lam also reiterated to Mr Kono that Hong Kong has all along been strictly implementing the sanction measures decided by the United Nations Security Council on North Korea, and that Hong Kong will stay highly vigilant about activities and suspected cases that may violate the sanctions,” the statement read.
 
According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, both sides affirmed their collaboration in preventing North Korea from evading the sanctions. This was in response to incident in which a Hong Kong-registered tanker was found to have secretly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in international waters last year.
 

Fukushima food promoted in Paris

The Japanese embassies and their diplomats continue their intensive promotion campaign to export Fukushima contaminated produce overseas….
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The governor of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture is in Paris to promote farm products that are suffering from a damaged reputation following the 2011 nuclear accident.
 
Masao Uchibori is visiting Europe following the 7th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
 
Uchibori organized the “Fukushima Pride” tasting event on Saturday at a shopping mall near Paris. Rice and fruit products were handed out to shoppers.
 
One visitor said she likes the dried peaches a lot and is not concerned about the safety of Fukushima produce now that it is widely circulated.
 
France has seen Japanese cuisine surge in popularity, which is pushing up the import of luxury foodstuffs and sake rice wine.
 
Uchibori expressed hope that France will help Fukushima overcome lingering concerns about the safety of its food and make inroads into the global market.
 
The Japanese government has been calling on other countries to lift import restrictions on its food products, after they cleared radiation screening.
 
In December, the European Union lifted import controls on some produce and seafood from regions affected by the nuclear accident.
 
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Amount of food with radioactive cesium exceeding gov’t standards ‘dropping’, so they claim

So they say…..But why should we believe such study coming from the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team to be true? Especially when we know that their main policy has been a constant denial of the existing risks for the past 7 years…..
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March 22, 2018
The number of cases in which radioactive cesium exceeding Japanese government standards was found in food items dropped to less than 20 percent over a five-year period from fiscal 2012, a health ministry study has found.
 
The government standards for radioactive cesium came into effect in April 2012, which assumed that half of distributed food products contained the radioactive element generated by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. It is set at 100 becquerels per kilogram for common food items, 50 becquerels per kilogram for baby food and cow milk and 10 becquerels for drinking water.
 
Based on central government guidelines, 17 prefectural governments, counting Tokyo, check food products in which radioactive cesium is likely to be detected, including items that have been distributed, for the radioactive element. Other local governments have also been independently inspecting such food products to confirm their safety. A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team analyzed data compiled by local governments, excluding that of beef, which has an extremely low detection rate for cesium, as well as products that go through bag-by-bag inspections such as rice from Fukushima Prefecture.
 
As a result, the number of cases that exceeded the threshold set under the Food Sanitation Act totaled 2,359 of 91,547 food products inspected in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2013, it was 1,025 out of 90,824 products, 565 out of 79,067 in fiscal 2014, 291 out of 66,663 in fiscal 2015 and 460 out of 63,121 in fiscal 2016.
 
Broken down by categories, 641 cases of food items among agricultural produce were found to have exceeded the government standards for radioactive cesium and 1,072 cases were detected among fishery products in fiscal 2012, but the figure had dropped to 71 and 11, respectively, in fiscal 2016. For fishery products, this is believed to be attributed to the reduction of cesium concentration in the seawater as the element had diffused in the ocean. It is also believed that the concentration in agricultural items had dropped as a result of decontamination work and other efforts.
 
At the same time, the number of cases exceeding national standards totaled 493 for game meat in fiscal 2012, and 378 in fiscal 2016. Researchers suspect that because wild animals continue to feed on wild mushrooms and plants with high concentrations of radioactive cesium growing in forests that have not been decontaminated, the figure does not drop among game meat products.
Almost all the foods that exceeded the government standards for radioactive cesium had not been available to consumers as the contamination was detected during inspections before being shipped to markets. However, Akiko Hachisuka of the National Institute of Health Sciences Biochemistry Division who headed the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team says game meat and wild mushrooms need to be prioritized in inspections for the time being and also in the future.
 
Among wild mushrooms and other products that had been distributed to markets, 19 cases exceeding government standards were reported in fiscal 2012, seven in fiscal 2013, 11 in fiscal 2014, 12 in fiscal 2015 and 10 in fiscal 2016.
 

Fukushima Contaminated Produce Exports Are Receiving Top-level Promotion

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, a media very close to the Japanese government, the produce exports from Fukushima Prefecture are making a strong recovery.  No wonder as they are promoted non-stop by the Japanese government pushing then down into the throat of its Asian neigbors….
Few days ago I even learned from an Australian friend that in his town Fukushima rice was being sold…..
march 6 2018
7 years after 3/11 / Produce exports from Fukushima Pref. making strong recovery
March 06, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — Exports of peaches and rice produced in Fukushima Prefecture have been brisk. Peach exports approached 50 tons in fiscal 2017, a 70 percent increase from before the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, while rice exports exceeded 100 tons and are expected to reach their pre-accident level.
For a while after the accident, Fukushima farmers saw their business grind to a halt under a trade embargo imposed by importing countries and regions. However, the Fukushima prefectural government and other entities have cultivated new markets, and their efforts have gradually borne fruit.
“I want to ship sweet peaches again this year to convey our region’s reconstruction to the world,” said farmer Susumu Suzuki, 67, who was busy pruning branches on his peach farm in Fukushima. The work involves keeping only a certain number of fruits on the tree so that nutrition will be concentrated in them before being harvested in summer.
While Suzuki’s farm is located about 65 kilometers away from the nuclear plant, radioactive substances were detected on the peaches right after the accident. Although the amount detected was within national limits, Suzuki repeatedly washed the substances from the trees using a high-pressure washer. Since the following year, voluntary safety checks done by the local Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) branch where his peaches are shipped have hardly detected any radioactive substances.
Top-level promotion
Exports of Fukushima-grown peaches in fiscal 2010, before the Great East Japan Earthquake, were 28.8 tons, most of which were shipped to Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, the regions restricted imports after the accident, and Fukushima farmers were unable to export peaches in fiscal 2011.
In addition to the local JA’s voluntary safety checks, the Fukushima prefectural government conducted another inspection based on national guidelines. The government also had overseas buyers observe cultivation and inspection methods while holding a number of food tasting events. As a result, the prefecture was able to ship peaches to Thailand in fiscal 2012. It was only one ton, but it was Fukushima’s first export since the accident.
The prefectural government also compiled a pamphlet written in languages such as English and Chinese to advertise the safety of its fruits, and then expanded sales into Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Peach exports in fiscal 2016 exceeded the volume shipped before the accident, and fiscal 2017 exports are expected to reach 48 tons.
As for rice, the prefecture was unable to find an export destination in fiscal 2012 and 2013. But in fiscal 2014, the prefecture began shipping to Singapore, starting with 0.3 tons. It also succeeded in finding a new channel for sales in Britain and achieved a total export volume of 22.3 tons in fiscal 2016.
Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori visited Malaysia to conduct top-level promotion, and rice exports to that country alone in fiscal 2017 are expected to reach 100 tons. Total exports are likely to exceed the 108 tons shipped in fiscal 2010.
Some still suffering
Even so, a negative image of farm produce grown in Fukushima Prefecture still exists abroad. Taiwan and Hong Kong have continued their embargo on peaches grown in the prefecture. Before the accident, the Fukushima prefectural government shipped fruit to those regions as a luxury product aimed at wealthier consumers. It has now lowered the price so that the middle class in other countries can afford its fruit. To reduce the price, cost-saving measures have been undertaken, including halting shipments by air.
The prefecture is struggling to boost rice exports to former customer Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong has not set an embargo on Fukushima rice, the prefectural government has yet to resume rice exports there because consumer unease has been deeply rooted.
“Rice grown in other prefectures has taken the place of our rice at supermarkets there. We need to keep advertising the safety of produce grown in our prefecture,” a Fukushima prefectural official said.