Fukushima dispels nuke anxiety to promote exports to HK

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori makes a sales pitch for Fukushima products in an interview with NNA in Hong Kong on Jan. 24, 2019.

By Elaine Li

HONG KONG, Feb. 5 Kyodo - Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori travelled to Hong Kong last month to pitch in person for the territory to lift its ban on food imports from his northeastern Japan prefecture imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

"Revitalization in Fukushima is in progress. I am coming to promote the safety and quality of Fukushima food to correct any misinformation," he said in a speech at a seminar in late January.

Uchibori, the first Fukushima governor to visit Hong Kong since the disaster, also promoted the prefecture’s signature products such as peaches and Japanese sake.

Hong Kong is the largest importer of Japanese agricultural and fishery products, and took as much as 82 percent of such exports from the prefecture in 2010, according to the prefectural government.

But the nuclear disaster the following year virtually reduced shipments of Fukushima products to Hong Kong to zero.

"Hong Kong was an important export market for Fukushima," Uchibori said in an interview with NNA, adding his prefecture is trying to have the import ban lifted.

More than 80 countries and regions slapped bans and restrictions on imports of Fukushima food products after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but 30 had lifted restrictions as of January 2018.

China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan -- once major importers of Fukushima food products -- are among the countries and regions which have still kept the bans, according to Japan’s Reconstruction Agency.

Uchibori made the trip to Hong Kong prompted in part by Hong Kong’s action last year to ease curbs on imports of vegetables, fruits, milk and other products from Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, all nearby Fukushima.

Hong Kong is the world’s largest importer of Japanese peaches, and Fukushima is Japan’s second biggest peach producer after Yamanashi Prefecture in central Japan.

Uchibori told the seminar that Fukushima has resumed peach shipments to Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand. He added that his prefecture also exported rice and pears to Malaysia and Vietnam in 2017, respectively.

Cheng Kam Ying, a participant in her early 30s in the Fukushima seminar at a Hong Kong hotel, expressed her confidence in Fukushima products. "My feeling of hesitation disappeared," she said, adding she would buy Fukushima food once the ban is lifted.

Hui Chung Sze, another participant in her 40s, ate sushi made of Fukushima rice during the seminar to promote Fukushima products and their safety. (NNA/Kyodo)

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