494 leaf tobacco farmers in Fukushima will grow leaf tobacco this year and sell it to Japan Tobacco (JT), a monopoly in Japan (50% of shares owned by the Ministry of Finance) and the 3rd largest tobacco and cigarettes manufacturer in the world, next to British American Tobacco.
Did you know that there is no national safety standard for radioactive materials in leaf tobacco?
From KFB Fukushima Broadcasting Co. (2/5/2012):
After the nuclear plant accident last year, the tobacco producers' union in Fukushima Prefecture gave up planting the tobacco. In the next growing season , 494 farms in central, southern and Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture will resume planting on 474 hectares.
The union and Japan Tobacco (JT) signed the agreement for the sale and purchase of the 2012 crop by Febuary 4.
The national safety limits for radioactive materials do not apply to leaf tobacco. JT has its own provisional safety limits (500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, 2000 becquerels/kg of radioactive iodine).
According to the union, 167 farmers (136 hectares) in the no-entry zone and the planned evacuation zone will continue to refrain from planting, as well as 15 farmers (12 hectares) in areas with high radioactivity in the soil which may cause the crop to exceed the JT's safety limits.
By the way, JT will start selling the cigarettes made from 2011 crop. Even though farmers in Fukushima did not grow leaf tobacco last year, farmers in other prefectures did, and the harvest was radioactive. JT doesn't care as long as it is below 500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. The highest was 217 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium detected from leaves harvested in Ibaraki Prefecture, according to JT's data measuring dried leaves. JT has assured customers that these leaves will be used in JT's cigarettes, because the cesium levels were within the JT's safety limit.
So, for added kick, look for JT-brand cigarettes come April. Make sure you don't exhale though, as people around you may not want to inhale what you exhale.