Japan wants countries to end Fukushima food import embargo

Tokyo, March 11 (IANS) Five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan hopes 37 countries will lift their embargo on food imports from the region, the government announced on Friday.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011, ravaged northeast Japan and left 18,000 dead and missing and caused the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, in the Fukushima nuclear power plant, EFE news reported.

“We would like to eradicate these harmful rumours (about Fukushima products) showing progress in reconstruction through our embassies,” said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that had triggered the nuclear disaster.

Kishida pledged to “continue working” to remove the restrictions that were imposed as a result of emissions from the plant that polluted surrounding areas and affected agricultural, livestock and fishery products.

Japan had also temporarily banned the domestic sale and consumption of various products from Fukushima, including rice and beef, after detecting radioactive contamination levels in them.

Authorities, wholesalers and retailers, imposed a strict chain of radiation controls on fruit, vegetables, meat and fish to certify safety.

Economic daily Nikkei reported that the recovery experienced in Japan in wholesale prices of fresh products from Fukushima, reflects how the stigma that weighs over the region has been decreasing among Japanese consumers.

Peaches, cucumbers, apples, “wagyu” beef and rice in the region have experienced price rises from their lowest peak in 2012, surpassing 2011 levels in 11 wholesale markets of the Tokyo metropolitan area.

However, prices continue to be below average than similar food products coming from other regions of Japan, said Nikkei.

Meanwhile, the coastal fishing village of Namie in Fukushima prefecture remains a ghost town after the accident with black bags of radioactive waste lining the vacant streets, dirt-blackened windows of the once-vibrant shops are still boarded up and a waste facility stocked with contaminated soil and debris stands where the train station used to be.

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