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Fukushima export ban maintained by Hong Kong

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April 10, 2018
Seven years after a tsunami wiped out the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, causing widespread radiation contamination in a largely agricultural region, the Fukushima prefecture continues to struggle in getting crucial overseas markets to accept its produce.
This is despite a charm offensive that saw japanese foreign minister Taro Kono visiting Hong-Kong last weekend for the first time in 21 years to lobby chief executive Carrie Lam to lift a ban on imports from Fukushima and its surrounding region.
Hong-Kong which accounts for a quarter of Japan’s food export trade, is among the 55 countries that have blocked shipments from Fukushima since the 2011 disaster.
Facing resistance
The trip did not go the way Tokyo planned, with Lam expressing her reluctance to reopen trade.
“She emphasized 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.
The visit came shortly after South Korea announced it would maintain a blanket ban on imports from north-eastern Japan, even though the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled this as “arbitrary and unjustifiable” discriminatory measures.
Korea’s trade ministry stated in March that it would appeal the WTO decision, which is equivalent to a court ruling.
“Despite this ruling, the current import ban will remain in force, and the government will make its utmost efforts to ensure radiation-contaminated food does not reach the dinner table,” it said in a strongly-worded statement, ahead of a likely appeal.
Radiation safe?
Meanwhile a Fukushima flatfish festival in Bangkok was forced to cancel amid pressure from consumer goods watchdogs over radioactive contamination.
According to japanese officials, food from the affected area is safe, with no radiation having been detected in rice since 2015. In January, a safety panel announced that contamination inspections would be phased out in favor of random spot checks, to bring rice in line with the current procedure for fruits and vegetables.
This position is backed up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whose director-general publicly ate sweets made from pears and apples grown in Fukushima at an event in Tokyo last May to publicize the safety of produce in the affected area.
“We don’t see any reason to raise concern about the safety of food,” Jose Graziano Da Silva said at the time.
Just a year after the nuclear incident japanese authorities began adopting the strictest radiation standards of any country in the world by lowering the accepted level of contamination by half.
But persuading prime export markets that Fukushima food is safe is proving to be tremendously difficult.
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April 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima rice to be exported to France

 

March 21, 2018
The governor of nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture appears likely to soon reach an agreement with a French trading house to export rice to France.
 
Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori is starting his 4-day visit to France and Britain on Thursday to promote local produce, including rice, beef, and processed fruit.
 
He seeks to dispel concern about the safety of food products from Fukushima following the nuclear accident in 2011 and expand its sales channels.
 
Prefectural sources say Uchibori is likely to reach an agreement to ship to France a locally produced rice variety called Tennotsubu . Rice from Fukushima will be exported to France for the first time.
 
Sources say the governor is also likely to cement a plan to increase Fukushima’s shipments of rice to Britain.
 
The prefecture exported 19 tons of rice to the country in the fiscal year ending in March 2017.
 
An official involved in Fukushima trade affairs says the exports will have a significant impact as Britain and France play a central role in passing on information in Europe.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

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…..
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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.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

The Japan-Korea trade spat about Fukushima food products will not end with the WTO ruling

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March 5, 2018
Japan appears to have won the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) battle over South Korea’s post-Fukushima disaster food import ban and restrictions, but the trade spat between the East Asian giants looks set to continue.
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March 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

EU to lift import curbs on rice from Fukushima, more deals likely

european commission fuk rice 27 sept 2017.pngA farmer plants rice seedlings in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, in May

 

The European Commission is set to relax import restrictions on rice from Fukushima Prefecture that were imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster, sources said.

The import curbs could be eased as early as this year and prompt other countries, including major markets like China, to follow suit, the sources added.

In addition to rice from Fukushima Prefecture, the EU is expected to remove restrictions on some seafood products from Iwate, Miyagi and other prefectures.

All restrictions on products from Akita Prefecture will likely also be lifted, thereby abolishing all curbs on rice grown in Japan.

The United States on Sept. 22 decided to allow imports of milk and dairy products from Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures without inspection certificates stating they are free of radioactive materials.

The EU move follows a general agreement on an economic partnership in July, during which EU officials informed Japan of plans to relax import restrictions on agricultural products. The two sides have been discussing the issue since then.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709270035.html

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 2 Comments

Fukushima peach exports recover in Southeast Asia, sparking hope for other produce???

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The original article was published by Fukushima Minpo, local Fukushima Newspaper, which promotes “recovery”.To export your contaminated fruits to other countries is plainly criminal.

Fukushima peaches are making inroads into Southeast Asian markets in what prefectural officials see as a model case of recovery in its farm produce.

Fukushima grabbed the top share of Japanese peach exports to three Southeast Asian countries last year — 73.9 percent in Thailand, 76.8 percent in Malaysia and 55.9 percent in Indonesia.

In terms of volume, Fukushima exported a combined 30.6 tons of peaches to the three countries plus Singapore in 2016, surpassing the 23.9 tons logged in 2010 — the year before the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant shattered trust in its farm produce in March 2011.

Given the improved figures, the Fukushima Prefectural Government now believes the measures it took to combat harmful rumors are paying off. It hopes to revive sales channels for other produce by using the recovery of peach exports as a base.

The prefectural government announced the export data at the end of January based on the Finance Ministry’s trade statistics for 2016 and other figures compiled by the Fukushima headquarters of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, or JA Zen-Noh.

Fukushima is the nation’s No. 2 peach-growing prefecture after Yamanashi and has been dubbed a “fruit kingdom” for the wide variety grown, including cherries, grapes, pears and apples.

Its peach exports peaked at 70 tons in 2008, thanks mainly to Taiwan and Hong Kong, but import bans imposed from the Fukushima disaster saw the peach trade collapse to zero in 2011.

According to the prefecture’s public relations office, Fukushima was quick to review its sales strategy and shift focus to Southeast Asia, where some countries eased import restrictions on its produce at an early stage.

A decision to promote the sweetness and freshness of Fukushima peaches was also a major factor in grabbing the hearts of consumers, the office said.

Despite the success in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, it may take time before other countries in the region follow suit.

In Singapore, for example, Fukushima peaches last year had a market share of only 12 percent among all peaches the city-state imported from Japan.

The prefecture is hoping that the improvements in the three countries will help persuade other markets, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, that its peaches are safe.

The recovery of the fruit’s reputation overseas has provided great encouragement to the prefecture’s peach growers, including Shigeyoshi Saito, 58, of the city of Date.

Along with other items, peaches are a main pillar of Fukushima’s farm produce,” he said. “I hope their good reputation in Southeast Asia will spread the word to the entire world.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/19/national/fukushima-peach-exports-recover-southeast-asia-sparking-hope-produce/#.WKoHZvL9KM8

February 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Nuke food’ already here

FDA announced a national recall of a fermented soybean product on Sunday, after discovering that the product included a package of soy sauce originating from a “radiation-affected” region of Japan.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a national recall of a fermented soybean product on Sunday, after discovering that the product included a small package of soy sauce originating from a radiation-affected region of Japan.

Radiation detection tests conducted by the Atomic Energy Council showed that the soy sauce had not been contaminated by nuclear substances, the FDA said.

But the discovery of the Ibaraki-sourced soy sauce had caught authorities off guard, highlighting a loophole in Taiwan’s five-year ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures.

Food products from Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures are banned over fears they may be contaminated with radioactive substances, following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

During a press conference on Sunday, FDA officials said they had asked all national retailers to recall products containing the soy sauce as a preventative measure. Any business that chose to keep the product in the market would be subject to a maximum NT$3 million penalty, health authorities said.

Officials said the soy sauce had been sold by food importer Taicrown Corporation (太冠國際) to downstream distributors including Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya, RT-Mart, shopping malls SOGO, Shinkong Mitsukoshi and Far Eastern.

The recalled fermented soybean product, called natto, had been manufactured by a Japanese company called KAJINOYA, FDA official Wu Ming-mei (吳明美) said.

Wu said the importer was in the process of collecting related information and would provide further details to the FDA before 5 p.m. on Monday.

According to media, Yoshinoya said its supplier provided safety certification for its imports, but that it had decided to pull the product from their menus regardless.

SOGO and Shinkong Mitsukoshi both said Taicrown Corporation had yet to offer any explanations and both offered refunds to customers that had purchased the product.

RT-Mart also issued a statement Sunday, stressing it had removed the natto product from its shelves last Friday after finding it suspicious during internal product inspections earlier that day.

Five other natto products imported by Taicrown have also been removed, and customers may receive refunds if they have any concerns, said RT-Mart.

The current administration is planning to gradually relax restrictions on Japanese food imports from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zones, but faced violent protests at public hearings last month.

http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/detail.asp?id=486491&grp=%27B%27

December 12, 2016 Posted by | Taiwan | , , | 1 Comment

VOX POPULI: Nuclear disaster surely taught us not to export this technology

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The town of Futaba, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, used to boast signage promoting nuclear power generation.

One sign proclaimed, “Genshiryoku–Akarui Mirai no Enerugii,” which translates literally as “Nuclear power: The energy of a bright future.”

This and other signs were removed in the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear disaster. They were relocated last month to the Fukushima Museum in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, according to the Fukushima edition of The Asahi Shimbun.

The museum is said to be considering an eventual exhibition of these acquisitions, which include a panel bearing the slogan, “Genshiryoku Tadashii Rikai de Yutakana Kurashi” (Proper understanding of nuclear energy enriches life).

These upbeat messages convey the hope, once held by the town of Futaba, that hosting the nuclear power plant will bring prosperity to the community.

But now, the reality gap is all too stark. Completely evacuated in the aftermath of the disaster, Futaba remains a dead town.

Is nuclear power still “the energy of a bright future”?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a Japan-India nuclear deal on Nov. 11 during his summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, opening the way for Japan to export nuclear reactors to India.

This bilateral treaty came about at India’s request for Japanese technological cooperation.

In the vicinity of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, more than 50,000 citizens are still living as forced evacuees, while work continues on the dismantling of the plant’s disabled reactors.

How could any country that let this happen have no qualms about providing its nuclear technology to another country? This is simply beyond comprehension.

While campaigning for India’s general election two years ago, Modi stressed that the nation could not hope for industrial or agricultural progress without electricity.

Of India’s population of 1.3 billion, about 300 million are still living without electricity. Correcting this power deficiency is obviously an urgent task, but is providing nuclear technology to India the only help that Japan can offer?

With evacuation orders still in effect for Futaba citizens, there is still nothing to indicate that the town will be habitable again.

And we, the Japanese people, know at first hand how difficult it is to rebuild people’s lives that were destroyed by a nuclear accident.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611120023.html

 

 

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Taiwan Minister Says Import Ban not a Bargaining Chip

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Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) yesterday told lawmakers that the ministry would not risk the health of Taiwanese by lifting a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures near the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Lin made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday morning, which was to review the ministry’s general budget for next year.

Amid reports that Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) last week asked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus about the possibility of lifting the ban on agricultural products from the five prefectures — just days before the first round of the Taiwan-Japan Maritime Affairs Cooperation Dialogue Mechanism in Tokyo on Monday — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked the minister if it was true the government planned to lift the ban as part of a trade-off.

Food and Drug Administration Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said that the council report to the DPP caucus was only to explain risks and that it has implemented strict food import controls at borders to help ensure food safety.

She said all food imports from Japan not from the five prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — must have a certificate of origin and a certificate proving they are free of radioactive contamination, adding that the agency would publish a products company name, if radiation readings were above legal tolerances.

At present, we have no plans to lift the ban,” Lin said. “The ministry takes protecting the people’s health as its most important duty.”

After Chiang twice asked Lin to confirm that the government would not use lifting the ban as a negotiation tool in its talks with Japan on maritime affairs, Lin said that it would not.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2016/11/03/2003658479

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ban on food from Japan’s radiation-affected areas remains: Taiwan FDA

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Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) The food and Drug Administration (FDA) reaffirmed Thursday that there is no timetable for any lifting of a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures that were affected by radiation fallout from a nuclear power plant meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“There is no timetable for any such opening,” FDA Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) told CNA.

She declined to comment on reports that Taiwan and Japan have reached an initial consensus on Taiwan’s opening to food imports from the five prefectures.

Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in the wake of the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011.

FDA Deputy Director-General Lin King-fu (林金富) said that food safety remains the primary concern, adding that the FDA will take stock of the management measures of other countries and continue to assess the situation.

Japanese media reported in May that Taiwan was planning to reopen to food imports from the five prefectures, but the reports were denied by the FDA. Reports resurfaced Thursday again about a lifting of the ban, and that formal opening could come early next year.

However, Pan Chih-kuan (潘志寬), an FDA food section chief, said that no related instructions have been received and that the assessment on Japanese food is still underway.

He stressed the three premises for opening — results of border inspection, monitoring results in Japan and the public’s attitude toward opening.

He said that since 2011, border inspections on 92,000 Japanese food items have been carried out, with 215 items found to contain a tiny amount of cesium. One item was found to contain the radioactive material in the past year.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201610060009.aspx#.V_b8QyR8f38.facebook

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

S. Korea imports 400 tons of Fukushima goods

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SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korea has imported over 400 tons of foods grown with radiation exposure in Fukushima, Japan, over the past six years, a South Korean opposition lawmaker said Monday, despite local consumers’ worries over contamination.

A total of 407 tons of goods from the region were brought into the country, said Choi Do-ja of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, citing data of the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) submitted to the National Assembly.

A devastating earthquake off the east coast of Japan and a subsequent tsunami in 2011 led to the meltdown of nuclear reactors there, sparking worries among South Korean consumers that Japanese-produced goods, especially fishery products, have been contaminated with radiation.

By products, processed fishery goods stood as the top product with 233 tons, followed by mixed products with 51 tons and candy with 41 tons, the data showed.

The South Korean government currently sends back unsafe products from the region after screening them for cesium and iodine.

“Our people think that the government should more sternly limit imported foods from Japan despite the Seoul government’s stance that food from Fukushima is relatively safe following strict quarantine,” Choi said.

Despite the increased exports, industry watchers said the public anxiety over Japanese fishery goods still exists. In 2015, local authorities rounded up owners of 70 stores that deceived consumers on the origins of Japanese fishery products.

http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2016/09/19/0200000000AEN20160919008100320.html

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima rice to be sold in Britain

It’s horrible to think that if the rice is over 99 Bq/kg it cannot be sold in Japan yet it can have up to 600Bq/kg (?) of Cs137/134 and be sold in the EU. One man’s poison is another man’s food …

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Rice harvested in Japan’s Fukushima region, heavily affected by a nuclear meltdown in 2011, is returning to the EU, starting with Britain next month, the Japan Times reports.

A total of 1.9 tons of Fukushima rice called Ten no Tsubu will be sold in London, making the UK the first EU nation to import the region’s produce after the nuclear disaster. The sale became possible after a long campaign from Fukushima natives in London to fend off rumors about the potential danger of the crops, the media said.

With the UK as a foothold, we hope to expand the sale of prefecture-produced rice to other EU member countries,” said Nobuo Ohashi from Japanese farmers group Zen-Noh.

Brussels requires rice from Fukushima to undergo a radiation test in Japan or the importer country.

It’s bright news for Fukushima, which has been struggling with the import restrictions. We will make further efforts so the restrictions will be lifted entirely,” said a spokesperson for a prefectural office.

The disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Plant was caused by a tsunami that resulted in the meltdown of three nuclear reactors and the release of radioactive material. It was the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and the second to receive the highest level classification on the International Nuclear Event Scale. 

A March report by the US National Academy of Sciences said that five years following the disaster, most seafood caught off the coast of Japan is now safe to be consumed, adding, “the overall contamination risk for aquatic food items is very low.”

https://www.rt.com/business/347459-fukushima-rice-japan-meltdown/

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan urges China to lift import ban on farm products in place since March 2011

BEIJING – Japan urged China on Monday to scrap its import restrictions on agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and food that have been in place since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kazuyoshi Honkawa, vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, made the request at a bilateral subcabinet-level dialogue in Beijing on agricultural issues.

The two countries reopened the dialogue for the first time in six years, after suspending talks due to deteriorated bilateral ties.

After the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, China prohibited all imports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and food from 10 prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki.

Honkawa asked Chinese Vice Agriculture Minister Qu Dongyu to urge authorities to lift the import ban. The embargo is administered by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Honkawa said he did not receive a clear answer on the issue from the Chinese ministry.

After the dialogue, he told reporters that the rapidly growing Chinese market is very attractive for Japanese agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, suggesting his ministry’s aim of expanding farm exports to China.

Economic relations between Japan and China have been on the mend in recent months.

At talks last November, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed to restart a high-level economic dialogue that brings together the two countries’ key economic officials at an early date this year. In December, Japan and China held economic partnership talks led by vice ministerial officials for the first time in more than five years.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/21/business/japan-urges-china-to-lift-import-ban-on-farm-products-in-place-since-march-2011/#.VvA5SHomySp

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

EDITORIAL: Each Fukushima water leak weakens faith in Japan’s food safety

sept 7, 2015 iwakiWholesalers check fish at a market in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

Japan’s dispute with South Korea over its import restrictions on Japanese seafood imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now going to the World Trade Organization.

Following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, South Korea banned imports of some marine products caught in waters off Fukushima and seven other prefectures, mainly areas along the Pacific coast between Aomori and Chiba prefectures. Then in autumn 2013, Seoul expanded the scope of the ban to include all marine products from these prefectures.

The Japanese government responded to the move by criticizing the measure for “lacking a scientific basis.”

Tokyo has been demanding that the measure be withdrawn while cooperating with Seoul’s investigations. But the two countries have failed to resolve their disagreements, and Japan has asked the WTO to set up a dispute-settlement panel comprising experts from third countries to rule over South Korea’s import ban.

More than a dozen countries and areas have barred imports of all or part of Japanese-made foods, but the government has singled out South Korea because the country has expanded its restrictions.

The WTO tends to be regarded as dysfunctional because of the lack of progress in the global trade-liberalizing talks under its auspices. But the world trade watchdog has at least been performing its dispute-settling functions.

Japan has been making active use of the WTO’s ability to settle trade disputes.

Over the past several years, Tokyo has filed complaints with the WTO over China’s restrictions on exports of rare earth minerals and Ukraine’s emergency restrictions on automobile imports, for instance. These actions have produced certain positive results for Japan.

Japan’s diplomatic relations with South Korea remain strained over some long-standing territorial and history-related rows. But both countries should not allow these problems to affect the ways they deal with economic issues like trade disputes.

Tokyo and Seoul need to continue talks to seek an early solution to the dispute even while the WTO’s panel is hearing the case.

Four-and-a-half years after the accident, coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture, where the disaster-stricken nuclear power plant is located, are still subject to restrictions on shipments of certain kinds of fish. Even for the fishes not covered, fishermen in these areas are allowed to catch and sell them only on a “trial basis.”

A system has been established to ensure that farm, forestry and fishery products made in areas directly affected by the disaster as well as surrounding regions are shipped only after they have passed the safety standards in radiation tests. But consumers have shown a tendency to avoid all food products from these areas.

In cases of fishery products, only small-scale fishing operations and limited sales of products have been conducted to gauge the reactions from consumers.

The South Korean government says it has expanded the import curbs in response to leaks of radiation-contaminated water from the Fukushima plant.

With the South Korean public deeply worried about food contaminated with radioactive materials, the step was aimed at preventing confusion among consumers in the country, according to Seoul.

The scope of the import restrictions and the means involved may be open to dispute. It should be noted, however, that in both South Korea and Japan, food safety from a scientific viewpoint doesn’t necessarily reassure consumers.

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has been plagued by leaks of polluted water. Local fishermen have lodged protests every time such an incident occurs.

It must not be forgotten that every leak of contaminated water makes consumers even more unwilling to put their faith in the safety of products from the areas.

The only way to restore the public’s trust in the safety of food is to ensure there will be no more leaks of contaminated water nor any exacerbation of the nuclear accident. The food trade dispute with South Korea should serve as a reminder of the absolute need to achieve these most basic nuclear safety goals.

Source: Asahi Shimbun

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201509070016

September 7, 2015 Posted by | Japan, South Korea | , , | Leave a comment