Japan asks Philippines to lift ban on Fukushima products

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June 6, 2018,
The Japanese government is asking the Philippines to lift the restrictions it imposed on the importation of agricultural and other food products coming from areas affected by the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and in charge of promoting the export of Japanese agricultural products, relayed this message to the Philippine government during a three-day official visit in Manila last week.
In his meeting with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, Miyakoshi noted that the European Union has already lifted some regulations on certain products that include agricultural and fisheries, “based on comprehensive scientific data and analyses.”
Citing the increasing demand for consumption of Japanese products in the country, the government of Japan is eyeing a total of JY1 trillion (PhP47 billion) annual exports to the Philippines until the end of 2019.
In a statement, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said both the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) are working on several policies related to export promotion in order to facilitate the freer flow of Japanese products to the Philippines.
At the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila last November, Prime Minister Abe also asked the countries in the region to consider accepting imports of food from the affected areas, noting that sufficient time had passed since the earthquake and the food are widely considered safe.
In the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear incident triggered by the earthquake-borne tsunami in the eastern coast of Japan, many countries, including the Philippines, introduced restrictions on agricultural and other food products from areas near the Fukushima power plant.
Some countries and regions have since then eased the restrictions following widespread clean-up and decontamination conducted by Japan.
Alongside with the discussion on the lifting of restrictions of products from Fukushima and nearby prefectures, Miyakoshi also discussed with Pinol the updates on rice production and harvest in the Philippines and Japan, as well as the possible infusion of Japanese development assistance in these areas.
Miyakoshi, together with Ambassador Koji Haneda, also held a meeting with representatives of Japanese companies doing business in the Philippines to discuss ways to further promote exports of Japanese agricultural products.
“Miyakoshi underscored the importance of this matter to Japan, and that the Japanese Government is now exerting its best efforts to increase export in the nearest future,” the Embassy said in the statement.
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Hong Kong should ease post-Fukushima ban on some Japanese food imports, government says

05 June, 2018
Centre for Food Safety plans to resume imports of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy from four prefectures neighbouring stricken area, as long as they pass radiation tests
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Hong Kong should relax a ban on food imported from Japan which has been in place since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government proposed on Tuesday, saying it considered the health risk low.
The suggestion of relaxing the seven-year-old ban was based on a scientific assessment of food safety, said a government source, who said trade was not the main concern.
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Hong Kong banned the import of fresh produce and milk from the prefecture and four nearby prefectures – Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma – while also testing fresh produce from the rest of the country for radiation. Hong Kong has been the top market for Japanese food for more than a decade, taking 26 per cent of the country’s food exports in 2016, according to Japan’s agriculture ministry.
But the government plans to resume imports of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy from the four neighbouring prefectures, as long as they pass radiation tests. The ban on produce from Fukushima should stay in place “with a view to addressing the concerns of the public”, said the proposal submitted to the Legislative Council on Tuesday by the Centre for Food Safety, under the Food and Health Bureau.
“The proposed amendment is made based on the scientific data on food safety,” a government source said. “Trade consideration with Japan is not a concern that should came before food safety.”
But he added that Hong Kong should also consider measures taken elsewhere when issuing an import ban, as the city is a member of the World Trade Organisation. Many countries which had similar bans – including Canada, Australia, the United States and Singapore – had lifted them totally or partially in recent years, the report said.
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The proposal will be discussed by a Legco panel on June 12, and can be gazetted and implement once it gets lawmakers’ approval.
But legislator Helena Wong Pik-wan disagreed that the ban should be relaxed at all.
“There is no food shortage in Hong Kong and there is no urgency to relax the ban,” she said. “The government should have public health as the foremost consideration, instead of putting it at unnecessary risk.”
She expressed worries that contamination in Japan is not over, as it can take up to 30 years for radiation to wear off. She pointed out that mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea had maintained their bans.
Since the ban came in, the centre has tested 490,000 food samples from Japan and found low radiation levels in 46. The most recent tainted sample was found in September 2016.
Japanese health officials said more than 2 million food samples had been collected in the country for radiation testing by early March, and most of the 1,200 found with unacceptable radiation levels were taken before March 2013, nearly 60 per cent of them from Fukushima.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said on Tuesday that local authorities would implement two levels of gatekeeping to ensure the safety of food from the radiation-affected prefectures once imports resume.
Food products from the four prefectures would have to meet Japanese requirements to get export certificates, which Hong Kong officials would check. The centre would then scan all Japanese food products, not just those from the affected prefectures, for radiation.
In March, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono to discuss the removal of restrictions, which Lam rejected, citing safety concerns. But last month Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam had promised she was exploring measures to scrap the restrictions.

Fukushima tells world radiation is down, exports up after nuclear crisis

Japanese “sake” from Fukushima, anyone?
The governor of Fukushima was in NYC promoting their food products.
Promoting Fukushima foods is national policy of Japan. No other prefecture in Japan gets this kind of support. Here is a page from the official government’s site:

Fukushima Foods: Safe and Delicious: Six years have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the prefecture of Fukushima is making steady progress in its reconstruction and revitalization. Fukushima has long been famous for its agriculture, known since old times as one of Japan’s premier rice-growing regions, and also earning the nickname “The Fruit Kingdom.” Fukushima’s agriculture suffered drastically after the earthquake and the nuclear power accident that followed, but as a result of thorough safety measures implemented through national efforts, foods produced in Fukushima have been recognized as safe by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), as well as by many individual countries, and the prefecture’s exports are increasing. Japan hopes that more and more people will enjoy the safe and delicious foods from Fukushima in the years to come.

 

n-fukushima-a-20180601-870x674.jpg Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori speaks about the current conditions of Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday at One World Trade Center in New York.

 

 

May 31, 2018
NEW YORK – Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Wednesday told the international community that the nuclear-crisis-hit prefecture is mostly decontaminated and that its food exports are picking up.
“Our consistent efforts over the seven years have borne fruit and recovery is underway,” Uchibori said at a news conference at One World Trade Center in New York, a site symbolizing the U.S. recovery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
He said the prefecture has completed decontamination work for 97 percent of its land after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The governor also said the size of evacuation zones has dropped to 3 percent of prefectural land from the peak of 12 percent.
“The radiation levels of the cities within the prefecture are now the same as any other major city in the world,” he said.
Although a stigma is still attached to Fukushima food products, exports in the year through this March stood at about 210 tons, eclipsing the pre-crisis level of roughly 150 tons in fiscal 2010, according to Uchibori.
Rice and peaches are being exported to countries including Malaysia and Vietnam and a store dealing in its local sake is opening in New York.
As of May 17, about 12,000 Fukushima residents were still under evacuation, according to the Reconstruction Agency. The decommissioning of the crippled nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. is expected to take 30 to 40 years.

Hong Kong to reach decision by November on lifting Japanese food import ban over Fukushima disaster

News comes after city’s leader in March declined request to remove restrictions, citing public safety
Hong Kong is considering lifting a ban on Japanese food imports after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a decision to be reached by November when the city’s top official visits the country, the Post has learned.
In March, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Hong Kong to request the removal of restrictions on food imports imposed after the 2011 accident. But Lam expressed reservations at the time, citing public safety.
The ban covers fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures, while fresh produce from the rest of the country is subjected to radiation tests by Hong Kong authorities.
An earthquake seven years ago led to a tsunami damaging nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, sparking fears of radiation leaks.
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On Saturday, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam told visiting members of the Japan-Hong Kong Parliamentarian League earlier this month she was exploring measures to scrap food import restrictions.
It also stated that Lam hoped to make the decision by November 1, when she is expected to head to Tokyo for a Hong Kong-related forum and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A local government source confirmed to the Post that it was looking into the possibilities of lifting the ban, but he added these might not cover Fukushima imports.
He also said Lam’s meeting with Abe was not finalised.
The Kyodo report said Lam had explained to visiting league members the difficulties in lifting the ban on Fukushima’s food products, saying the public might not understand the decision because the prefecture was “too well known”.
The report also quoted a Japanese government source as saying: “We are negotiating with Hong Kong and trying our best to get the ban lifted.”
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said on Saturday the authority had tested more than 490,000 samples of food imported from Japan since the restrictions were in place and none of the samples had radiation levels exceeding recommended limits.
He said the government had been maintaining communication with Japanese authorities and reviewing control measures on food imported from the country in light of current conditions.

China opens the door a crack wider to Japanese rice imports

May 15, 2018
Beijing approves more processing facilities but many restrictions remain
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China allows imports of Japanese rice only from approved mills. There is only one such facility now, but Beijing will add two more to the list, potentially expanding Japan’s export market.
TOKYO — The Japanese ramen noodle chain, Ajisen Ramen, operates around 600 restaurants in China. But if you want Japanese rice with your noodles, you must pay about four times the price of a domestic variety. In China, Japanese rice is only for the deep-pocketed.
One reason Japanese rice is so expensive is that China imposes strict controls on imports of the food staple from Japan. Some of these restrictions were introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
But things may soon start to change. On May 9, the two counties struck a deal to increase the Japanese facilities that Beijing approves to process rice bound for its shores. China is a potentially a huge market for Japanese rice, but currently accounts for only 3% of overall exports. Hong Kong and Singapore, the two largest markets, take about 60% of the total.
Japan’s agriculture ministry sees China as vital to achieving its target of increasing annual exports of rice and related products to 100,000 tons. In 2017, Japan exported 11,800 tons of rice, of which only 298 tons went to China. According to one estimate, China consumes about 20 times more rice than Japan.
While the recent deal between the two countries is a step forward, Chinese restrictions and high costs remain major hurdles for Japanese exporters. Most experts also say Japan’s rice exports will remain vulnerable to any political tensions between the two countries.
To export white rice to China, brown rice must first be milled and fumigated at facilities that China has approved as safe. The new deal will expand the number of approved mills and fumigation facilities.
There is currently only one rice mill in Japan approved by China, operated by the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
The agreement adds two more mills. One is located in Ishikari, on the northern main island of Hokkaido, operated by Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives. The other is in Nishinomiya in western Hyogo Prefecture, operated by Shinmei, the nation’s largest rice wholesaler.
A Shinmei executive welcomed the agreement, saying it would enable the company to “respond more swiftly to needs in China.”
In Beijing, Shinmei sells the popular Koshihikari rice variety, grown in central Toyama Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, for about 2,600 yen ($23.70) per 2kg. That is nearly double the retail price in Japan, and 80% higher than the price of Koshihikari produced in northeastern Niigata Prefecture and sold in Hong Kong.
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A Japanese farmer in Ibaraki Prefecture tends to his crop using a rice planting machine
One reason Japanese rice is so expensive in China is because of transport costs and distributor margins. Reducing costs is a principal challenge for Japanese rice exporters.
A Shinmei executive said that in addition to an effective marketing campaign in China, increasing rice exports requires serious cost-cutting in Japan.
For its rice exports to China, Shinmei has had to outsource the milling process to Zen-Noh. That means the rice wholesaler has to send rice harvested all across the country to the Zen-Noh plant in Kanagawa.
Since Zen-Noh’s mill and warehouses are not always available, this arrangement requires the time-consuming process of coordinating schedules between the two sides in advance.
As for fumigation to control insects, Beijing has approved only two facilities in Japan, both in Kanagawa. Under the new deal, Japan’s agriculture ministry will register five more fumigation warehouses for exports to China, including facilities in Hokkaido and Hyogo.
The new agreement will allow Shinmei to polish rice at its own mills and to fumigate it at a warehouse in Kobe for shipment to China from Kobe’s port.
China’s restrictions on food imports from Japan following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are also a barrier to Japanese rice exports. China bans all food from 10 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Niigata.
The import curbs, which cover rice snacks, sake and other rice products, hit the rice industry hard, said Kosuke Kuji, president of Nanbu Bijin, a sake brewer based in Ninohe, Iwate Prefecture.
While Japan and China have set up a task force to discuss steps to ease the restrictions, there is not much reason for optimism about the outcome of the talks, an agriculture ministry official said.
The chairman of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, Toru Nakaya, is also cautious about the outlook for rice exports to China.
“We do not expect rapid progress, but we welcome the step forward,” Nakaya said of the recent agreement.

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.

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.