(Sankei: January 3, 2016 – p. 3)
By Kensaku Amano and Yuko Ogata
Although nearly five years have passed since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, foreign countries continue to prohibit imports of agricultural and fishery products from Japan. None of the import bans are based on science. Even inland prefectures that do not export fishery products are included in countries’ lists of prefectures from which these products may not be imported. A government official, who negotiates with those foreign countries, said, “The reasons for the prohibition are unclear, and we have received no reply to our official inquiries about reasons,” disclosing that the situation is at an impasse.
“Why do Koreans have to eat what the Japanese don’t eat?” “If the (South Korean) government imports fishery products from Japan, I will eat no fishery products.” Such comments were posted on Internet bulletin boards in South Korea. The South Korean government has maintained a rigid position toward Japan on the matter as well. Japan filed litigation with the World Trade Organization against South Korea. The country named Japanese inland prefectures including Tochigi as prefectures from which imports of farm and fishery products are banned. An official of the prefectural government said, “Although there has been no actual damage, we are concerned that rumors may cause our products to be shunned.”
Agricultural and fishery products of Fukushima Prefecture are recovering from radiation contamination. Test fishing off the prefecture has expanded. The inspection of the total number of bags of rice (10 million) detected no instances of radiation exceeding the standard level. However, besides South Korea, eight countries and regions including China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Singapore, Brunei, New Caledonia, and Russia continue to prohibit imports of Japanese products.
Among these countries and regions, China prohibits the most items. It continues to prohibit the import of all food and feed from 10 prefectures including Fukushima, Tokyo, Saitama, and Chiba.
Taiwan prohibits the import of all food products from five prefectures– Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, and Chiba. Besides the prohibition, Taipei required Tokyo effective May 2015 to attach a certificate of origin to all Japanese food products.
On the other hand, import restrictions have been eased one after another. The European Union (EU) announced in November 2015 that it will delist Fukushima Prefecture’s vegetables, fruit, and livestock products from the radioactive substance inspection, which applies to all of the prefecture food products. The U.S. also continues to restrict imports, but only imports of items under Japan’s restriction on shipments; therefore, there is no de facto restriction. Thailand eased its import restrictions as well. Fukushima Prefecture’s peaches are popular in Thailand, and the country has doubled its import of fruit from the 1.9 tons immediately after the disaster. (Abridged)