"Harmful rumors will spread again”

Fukushima Prefecture: Growers fear impact of water release

Farmers in the Fukushima Prefecture have voiced their concern about the risk of further harmful rumors about produce from the area, if the government allows Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to release water contaminated with radioactive tritium into the Pacific Ocean.

Nearly ten years after the triple meltdowns at the nuclear power plant in March 2011, prices for agricultural products from the prefecture still haven’t fully recovered. Also, some producers are still struggling to get retailers to buy their produce. They are concerned that if the government cannot set out detailed measures to tackle the reputational damage, they will need to start all over again from scratch.

“It’s unprecedented, and it’s hard to predict how much and how long it will last,” said deputy trade minister Kiyoshi Ejima, who heads a government task force on nuclear disasters, in an interview, regarding the harmful rumors. “We can’t offer a comprehensive (aid) package at this point of time.”

“If the waters are released when people at home and abroad aren’t adequately informed that it’s safe, based on science, harmful rumors will spread again,” said a farmer who produces rice and apples.

When Kato worked to promote the safety of Fukushima-made produce in Tokyo, he felt it was extremely difficult to gain the understanding of people from outside Fukushima Prefecture. “If people don’t understand the safety of the produce and how it has been made, it won’t have a price tag equivalent to what it’s worth.”

As explained on japantimes.co.jp, in northern Fukushima Prefecture, fruit farmers were hit by heavy rain last year, after Typhoon Hagibis swept through the region, and were significantly affected by plant disease this year. Koji Suzuki, 69, who harvests peaches and persimmons in the town of Kunimi, says he was only able to harvest about 40% of his fruit compared to normal years.

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