except for a few districts where rice with high level of radioactive cesium exceeding 500 becquerels/kg was found in last year's testing.
Well why not? The government didn't stop farmers in Fukushima from planting rice last year, right after three explosions (possibly 4, counting Reactor 2's Suppression Chamber) at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant released 650,000 terabecquerels (iodine equivalent) of radioactive materials. They apparently told some reluctant farmers if they didn't grow rice they wouldn't be compensated. So the farmers in Fukushima tilled the land, mixed up the contaminated soil and poured water in the rice paddies and grew rice. If they could do it last year, surely they can do it this year, and next year, and year after next year.
Farmers in the areas where rice with radioactive cesium between 100 becquerels/kg and 500 becquerels/kg was found last year will be allowed to grow rice this year, even though the new safety limit for radioactive cesium in food will be 100 becquerels/kg starting April 1, 2012.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will allow rice cultivation on only one condition that all bags of rice (60-kilogram bag) be tested after harvest.
(Ostensible) reason? So that the farmers in Fukushima aren't discouraged from growing rice.
(Don't ask me.)
From Jiji Tsushin (2/28/2012):
Farmers can grow rice in Fukushima, even in the areas that had rice with radioactive cesium exceeding 100 Bq/kg, as long as all bags of rice are tested, says Ministry of Agriculture
In response to a series of detection last year of radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg) in rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced the policy on the 2012 rice on February 28. The areas where radioactive cesium exceeding 100 becquerels/kg but below 500 becquerels/kg was found last year will be allowed to grow rice as long as certain conditions are met, including testing of all bags of rice after harvesting.
The total amount of rice produced in these areas in 2011 was about 30,000 tonnes, or 10 percent of the total amount of rice produced in Fukushima Prefecture.
Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano spoke to the press, "Securing the safety of food is our first priority", emphasizing the need to dispel consumers' anxiety. He explained that in establishing the policy further consideration was given to the strong desire of the farmers in Fukushima to grow rice.
We'll see if testing all bags of rice is even possible, given the lack of testing equipment even with the last year's sampling test. It doesn't look like they even pretend to "decontaminate" rice paddies in the high radiation middle third of Fukushima ("Nakadori").
Let's speculate on the real reasons for the decision by the Ministry of Agriculture:
They'd rather gamble, and if cesium is below the 100 Bq/kg limit the government will not have to do anything.
They want to give business to the companies that make radiation testing devices and equipment (like Fuji Electric who made the radiation monitoring device at a school in Minami Soma City).
After all, this was the Ministry whose officials thought waving the Nal scintillation survey meter over cows would measure the radiation of the meat accurately enough. They didn't know that rice hay was fed to the cows as part of the diet right before the cows were to be sold. We cannot, and shouldn't expect much sharp thinking from this (or any other) ministry.
Caveat emptor, but I sense that most Japanese are either just too weary or not caring any more at this point. Relentless drive by the Kan administration and then by the current Noda administration to spread radioactive vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, leaf compost, mushrooms and logs to grow mushrooms on, firewood, disaster debris, etc. so that Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate) "can recover" is taking its toll.