BIEL-Ad-For-Web-300x281Farmers have started planting rice for business purposes in a village in Fukushima Prefecture for the first time since the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In March 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, making it the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. A total of eight farms in Iitate plan to resume growing rice this year in a combined area of about 7 hectares after evacuation orders were lifted at the end of March for large parts of the village. With much of the area contaminated by radiation following the nuclear mishap, the total arable area has shrunk from around 690 hectares before the disaster in the village. The farmers will conduct radiation tests before shipping their rice.

However no rice grown in the village has shown levels of radioactivity exceeding the safety standard since experimental rice planting began in 2012. A farmer, Mr. Shoichi Takahashi aged 64, while working on rice planting machine said, “We feel comfortable but we want to get back even a step closer to the village of six years ago.” The municipality has supported farming efforts, including installing electric fences around the area to protect the rice fields from wild boar and working the soil after decontamination. Meanwhile in Tokyo, FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said on Wednesday that the safety of food produced in Fukushima is “assured,” despite the import bans still imposed by some countries in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster. “At the moment, we don’t see any reason to raise concern about the safety of food,” he told at a tasting event in Tokyo where he ate sweets made from pears and apples grown in the northeastern prefecture. “Six years after the accident, we continue to monitor all the foods from the area affected and we have to say that the Japanese government has been supportive and very transparent despite the difficult situation,” he said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, more than 30 countries and regions, including China, South Korea and Taiwan, still impose such restrictions, while some 20 countries have eased or lifted the measures. Fukushima Mayor Kaoru Kobayashi also hoped that the negative reputation would become a thing of the past. He said that the products made in the prefecture are safe due to the advanced technology used in decontamination measures and to the monitoring and inspection systems are second to none.