Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Report from Australia: "Japan farmer harvests hope in our soil"

The Australian has the following report of Mr. Takemi Shirado, Iwaki-City rice farmer who went to Australia after the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant Accident to start again from scratch.

Farmer Shirado just harvested 10 kilograms of rice from 100 grams of seed rice. Now he will plant 10 kilograms of seed rice to harvest 1 tonne of rice by summer.

From The Australian (5/23/2012):

JAPANESE farmer Takemi Shirado still sounds grief-stricken and shell-shocked when talking about last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster that so devastated his rural community.

Catastrophic radiation contamination of the soil means his family won't be able to sow rice on their Iwaki rice paddies, about 60km from the crippled defunct power plant, for at least 300 years.

Other local farmers are starting to grow leafy vegetables on less-contaminated fields, but are finding consumers too scared to buy their risky produce.

But Mr Shirado is clearly not a man to moan and mope.

Instead he has come to Australia as head of a consortium of Fukushima farmers to see if north Queensland's fertile Burdekin valley might hold the solution to his prefecture's long-term fallout-affected food problems.

Mr Shirado's dream now is to turn the sugarcane fields around Ayr into fertile flooded rice paddies growing Japanese rice varieties in traditional organic ways, to supply the people of his ruined home prefecture once again with their staple food.

Yesterday Mr Shirado, official representative of the Fukushima farmers co-operative, was celebrating.

More than 15 months after the tsunami and nuclear explosion destroyed his community's quiet way of life, the proud Japanese rice grower could be found standing knee deep in green rice stalks, small Japanese sickle in hand, harvesting his first Kochi rice trial in tropical north Queensland.

"It is looking good; even though it is still early days," said a satisfied Mr Shirado.

"So far this looks like being a very good area for growing rice; I think we can grow four crops a year here and the water is very pure too."

With strict quarantine restrictions on importing Japanese varieties of rice into Australia, Mr Shirado's Burdekin rice scheme has had to start from scratch.

Three months ago he had just a handful of the required kochi rice seeds -- only 100g -- to plant in three small test plots at the Ayr agricultural research station.

After yesterday's hand harvest, he now has 10kg of rice grain to grow his next Ayr crop on more irrigated land. By August, Mr Shirado hopes to have turned that 10kg of rice into one tonne of seed, before expanding exponentially.

Local Queensland agricultural regional development manager Gareth Jones admits the plans of the Fukushima Farmers co-operative are ambitious; particularly their certainty of harvesting a rapid four crops of rice a year, each taking just three months to grow.

But he says the Burdekin needs diversity, and that new varieties of sushi or short-grain rice grown using flood irrigation, might fit well into fallow rotations of local canegrowers.

"It's no exaggeration to say that when this project started, the Japanese delegation felt they were planting seeds of hope for the future," Mr Jones says.

Mr. Shirado has the same smile of a farmer who loves farming, growing what he wants without worries of radiation contamination, like Mr. Tanno, who gave up farming in Fukushima and moved to Nagano to grow his organic carrots.

(H/T John Noah)


LC Douglass said...

Wow, a hopeful story in this nightmare. Thank you for posting it.

Maju said...

Even from the worst of the worst sometimes good things come out.

Anonymous said...

Please have him grow nori too!

Chibaguy said...

Thank you for posting this ex skf. My support is fully behind him. I hope more are to follow.

Anonymous said...

It is great to read a positive story, but I am curious to know how this project was arranged and financed. So many Japanese people would like to settle abroad, but they worry about money and visas. As far as I know, none of Japan's friendly allies have offered to recognize radiation refugees.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 11:42, I'm curious too. But a nation usually welcomes people who could potentially bring new business. Mr. Shirado and his group may just fit the bill for the Queensland agriculture.

John said...

Yes, I have to say I am envious. I want to leave Japan, but how can I without the proper visas or a job offer? I am working class without any government connections. So like most of the poor, I am stuck in Japan.

Anonymous said...

John - just go. cattle stations (rural farms) all over australia are hurting for honest people who don't mind working hard. sure you can find someone who won't be too particular about your lack of paperwork. after you get settled, marry someone from there. it's easy if you're a decent bloke.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, harvest hope in Australian soil... until they start contaminating it with Fukushima debris and nuclear plants. For those who don't know - yes, they are seriously considering doing those things.

Anonymous said...

If they aren't so stupid as to burn the waste, Australia actually has some geologically stable regions that would be as good as Yucca Mtn for long term disposal of the nuclear waste. Just dont be stupid like Japan and burn it.

Chibaguy said...

@John, my only advice to you is you can get out. There are haters (foreigners to be specific) but my experience is that foreign governments will assist you but it does take some money to get through the paperwork. If you are still here in 2 months I am more than willing to help you out if you want to leave. As for now, I cannot do anything. No government will admit the problem but they all will gladly accept taxes. It is that stupid and simple. Just remember, the Japanese what to get out as well for the most part but are trapped within their culture. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Or people could just stop using nuclear power so we don't have to keep finding places to bury nuclear poop.

Did you hear about how Australians recently accidentally dug up some radioactive waste from the 1980s?

m a x l i said...

Anyone who is thinking about fleeing to a supposedly radiation-safe country (like Australia for instance) to put an end to his worries and troubles and to have a future for their children and themselves, might want to have a look at this:


The rice farmer (I wish him all the best!) did the right thing, but is it enough? One day he might wake up and see some dust clouds outside his window...

Where will he go next? Mars?

m a x l i said...

It's really not that important, but in Australia the time around august is called "winter", and not "summer".

At least something, I know better, than the master of this website. :¬)

Anonymous said...

I am glad he was able to resume farming in soil that wasn't contaminated. The people that are able to leave Japan will be the lucky. Not just because of the Radiation, but because Japan's QE program has nearly reached its limit. This week Japan credit rating was downgraded. they will be many more downgrades to come as Japan has the highest Debt to GDP ratio and export surplus can no longer offset poor gov't finances.

Anonymous said...

Radiation Network goes to Australia.


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