10 Years On: Fukushima Rice Farmers Innovate to Survive
Fukushima, Feb. 16 (Jiji Press)--Although the accident at the disaster-stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture still casts a shadow over local agriculture a decade later, rice farmers are working to shake off radiation-related rumors and pass on Fukushima's rice farming to the next generation.
Some are pinning hopes on an original rice brand developed in the prefecture to find a way to overcome the difficulties posed by the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 plant. The accident was triggered by the major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The annual rice harvest in Fukushima, which totaled 445,700 tons in fiscal 2010, slid to 353,600 tons in the following year and has since remained at around 350,000-380,000 tons. Although exports of Fukushima-grown rice have been increasing in recent years thanks to promotion measures by the Japanese government, shipments to Hong Kong for example plunged to 2.6 tons in fiscal 2019 from some 100 tons in fiscal 2010 due to the strengthening of purchase restrictions introduced after the nuclear accident.
All Fukushima-made rice had to undergo checks for cesium and other residual radioactive substances to secure safety. Finally, in 2020, rice grown in areas other than 12 municipalities near the accident-hit power plant was switched to random checks.
Also in 2020, rice of the "Fuku, Warai" (lucky, laughter) original brand was harvested for the first time, after 14 years of development by the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center. Of the total 37 tons harvested, the producers sold 16.8 tons via the internet and stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area, exceeding the sales projection of 15 tons. Full-scale sales of the original rice, whose features include sweetness and a rich scent, will start in fiscal 2021.
[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]