Farmers’ anger mounts as Japan bans Fukushima rice for radiation

11/18/2011
By

A rice paddy field

TOKYO (majirox news) — Bewilderment and anger is spreading among Fukushima farmers after Japan on Nov. 17 declared its first ban on rice produced near the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant after samples determined radioactive cesium was above legal limits.

“Despite testing in only two locations the government is banning the rice,” Yoshimitsu Yamaki, a local farmer, told the Sankei newspaper. “The government needs to do more extensive testing and get more samples.”

The contaminated samples were taken at a farm in the Onami district, located 60 km (38 miles) northwest of the Fukushima plant.

Yamaki, 65, sells his harvested rice to local agricultural cooperatives. Last year, he sold 60 kilograms of rice for 16,000 yen ($208), compared to 12,000 yen ($156 ) this season. Some farmers in Onami have already given their harvested rice to acquaintances and relatives, including children.

“I’ve lost my desire and enthusiasm to grow rice next year,” Yamaki said.

Another local farmer said, “Because the government made the announcement, rumors will now spread and we will not be able to sell any rice, even if it’s safe.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura ordered Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato to restrict shipments of rice from Onami.

An official said, “The restriction won’t be lifted until safety of the rice produced in the area can be confirmed. The ban will affect 154 farms that produce 192 tons of rice this year.”

The rice measured 630 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Under Japanese regulations, rice with up to 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram is the maximum level that is considered safe for consumption

Rice is a staple part of the Japanese diet, with many homes eating it three times a day.

Food continues to be one of the major concerns for consumers after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, spewing radiation.

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