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    Aug 20, 2014

    Singapore to get rice from Fukushima


    JAPAN is to restart exports of rice grown in Fukushima for the first time since foreign sales were halted due to fears of contamination by the nuclear disaster there, officials said yesterday.

    The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh), a major wholesaler of Japanese agricultural products, said it will send 300kg of the grain to Singapore.

    Its provenance will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce, an official said. The rice was grown some 60-80km west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, he said.

    It will be the first time rice grown in Fukushima prefecture - which hosts the battered Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant - has been sold abroad since fiscal 2012 when the region exported 17 tonnes to Hong Kong, a Fukushima official said.

    "Despite our efforts at explaining the safety of Fukushima-made farm products, up until now we have not been able to find retailers who wished to trade rice grown in Fukushima," said a Zen-Noh official. "From now on, we aim to export more Fukushima rice, including to Singapore."

    Fukushima was a key agricultural area before the 2011 disaster, when a huge tsunami swamped reactors and sparked meltdowns, sending out plumes of radioactive material. Thousands of people were evacuated and huge tracts of land were rendered unfarmable.

    The accident has left the Fukushima brand contaminated, both domestically and internationally. Despite government assurances that it is safe, farmers who till fields many kilometres from the plant have struggled to find buyers for their produce.

    Local officials say rigorous testing proves that there is no risk from consuming rice grown in Fukushima prefecture, an area that stretches way beyond the nuclear plant and its environs.

    "All rice grown in Fukushima is being checked for radioactivity before being shipped to the market," an official said.

    "Our rice is proven to have passed the government safety standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram (a measure of radioactive contamination), and is mostly below detection levels" of measuring instruments, he said.

    Before the disaster, more than 100 tonnes of Fukushima-grown rice, peaches and apples were sold abroad each year, chiefly in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the official said.

    In 2012, exports of peaches and apples to Thailand resumed and last year exports of the fruit to Malaysia resumed, he said.