Tohoku autumn delicacies go uneaten / Curbs on produce shipments, radiation fears dry up normally busy season

发表于:2011-09-18 | 来源:yomiuri| 访问数:437

Akiko Yasuda looks at unsold mushrooms Friday evening at her farm stand in Inawashiromachi, Fukushima Prefecture.

FUKUSHIMA--The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has affected this year's autumn delicacies in Fukushima Prefecture, with a number of events canceled and few visitors to farm stands.

The prefecture's annual matsutake mushroom-hunting event for tourists has been canceled. At some farm stands set up to sell pears, the prefecture's specialty, the level of radioactive substances is indicated on the product.

Farmers have been trying to gain consumers' confidence in their products amid fears of radioactive contamination. Some rice farmers asked private institutes to measure the amount of radiation in their crops.

After radioactive cesium exceeding the government-set provisional limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram was detected in some wild mushrooms, the shipment of wild mushrooms was banned in 43 municipalities.

In the town of Tanaguramachi, famous for its matsutake mushrooms, the town's tourist association normally holds annual matsutake-hunting events from mid-September to mid-October and a mushroom festival on Oct. 22. However, both events are canceled this year. A member of the association said, "We're sorry [for not being able to hold the events] as we've received a number of inquiries [about them]."

Few people visited a mushroom farm stand in Inawashiromachi, where the shipping of mushrooms is limited. Akiko Yasuda, 70, who runs the farm stand, tried to promote the safety of the mushrooms, with tags saying they were produced outside the town.

"Normally, at this time of the year, we have so many customers that the parking lot overflows. But the number of customers this year is about one-third that of a normal year," she said with a sigh.

Orchards of pears and peaches line both sides of a prefectural road in the city of Fukushima. In an ordinary year, busloads of tourists come to the area to pick fruit. This year, however, there are no buses in sight.

Producers and distributors are desperately trying to convince consumers of the safety of their products. Since July, a private research institute in the city has received more than 50 requests from farmers to inspect food for radioactive substances.

One of them is Anzai Orchard, which produces and sells pears. At one of the orchard's farm stands, a notice indicating "26 becquerels of cesium" can be seen on boxes of Kosui variety pears.

"If the central and the prefectural governments do nothing, I think it's the farmer's responsibility to sell the products after voluntarily checking their safety," said Kazutoshi Anzai, 62, the owner of the orchard.

Yamagata Pref. also affected

The ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis has also affected autumn delicacies in neighboring Yamagata Prefecture.

The Murayama municipal government changed one of the ingredients for its local soup and vegetable dish "imoni" from beef to pork. The dish is offered for lunch at middle schools in the city.

"We changed the menu so as not to cause unnecessary anxiety for students and their parents," an official at the city's education board said.

At Onuma lake in Maebashi, a major fishing site for surf smelt, radioactive cesium exceeding the provisional limit was detected in the fish at the end of August, forcing the city to put off its fishing season, originally scheduled to start Sept. 1.

The movement toward voluntary inspections for radioactive substances has spread among rice farmers.

In late August, Toshio Watanabe, 54, a farmer in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, brought his early-harvest rice to Jrap, Inc., a company that produces and sells farm products in Sukagawa in the prefecture, asking them to check it for radiation.

Many farmers in the Nakadori area in the prefecture ship their rice directly to wholesalers without going through local agricultural cooperatives because of the popularity of the rice nationwide.

Watanabe's early-harvest rice was declared safe after a test by the prefectural government. However, Watanabe decided to have his rice reexamined by the company to confirm the safety to lessen consumer anxiety.

The test results showed no radioactive substances were detected.

Since the company introduced a simplified radiation indicator in July, it verified radiation levels in about 250 varieties of vegetables and fruits.

So far, no radioactive material has been detected in rice, according to the company.

(Sep. 18, 2011)

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