Saturday, March 31, 2012

#Fukushima Fruit Growers: To Grow or Not to Grow This Year (With Tree Barks with 40K Bq/Kg of Cesium)

Is it even a question after what happened in last year? Well, clearly it is, for many farmers who grow fruits in Date City in the middle third of Fukushima with elevated radiation levels.

40,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected on the surface of peach trees in the city's orchard in the mountain. One grower is determined to grow this year again, the other has given up.

From Sankei Shinbun (4/1/2012):

「それでも作るしか」「もう無理」…果樹農家悲鳴 死活問題に

"Still no choice but grow", "Can't grow any more..." Matter of life and death for fruit growers


Radioactive cesium exceeding the safety standard can be a matter of life and death for the producers. Particularly, fruit growers who have only one harvest per year have big worries.


Late March in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, where "specific evacuation recommendation spots" are scattered throughout the city. In an orchard in the mountain, the trunk of a persimmon tree is white. Grapevines are reddish brown. Both are the result of high-pressure washing that blasted off the barks.


"No matter what the standard is, as long as there are fruit tries, I have no choice but grow fruits", says a man (age 50) who grows grapes, peaches and persimmons in his 1 hectare orchard. In the last growing season, 80 to 90 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found from peaches harvested nearby. It was below the 500 becquerels/kg provisional safety limit, but with the new 100 becquerels/kg standard, it would be close to the limit. "Once [the trees are] decontaminated, it should be OK. But the consumers won't buy it unless there is zero cesium."


He was compensated by TEPCO, but he says, "I'm not growing for compensation. I'm growing so that people would say it is tasty."


There are farmers who has given up. Shigeharu Sugano [could be Kanno] (age 65), who has grown peaches for a long time in the same area, pulled out half his trees last year in order to make room for temporary storage for the decontamination wastes. However, from the surface of the rest of his trees, 40,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected. He gave up. "I can't do it any more."


It was a half century ago that the local farmers switched from sericulture to fruit growing because of the drop in price in sericulture. "Unless we find something new, younger people won't come back", says Sugano. That "something new" hasn't been found.

With due respect to Mr. Sugano (at least he has given up growing peaches on his highly contaminated orchard), I don't think it's a matter of finding something new to grow.

Last year, Fukushima Prefecture even used school children to push Fukushima peaches, and they were widely sold all over Japan, even to customers who had never seen peaches from Fukushima in their local supermarkets.

Why not do that again this year? It worked last year. Just keep smiling.


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