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Taiwan maintains ban on Fukushima food

November 26, 2018


Taiwan votes to keep ban on foods from Fukushima disaster areas for 2 more years




FUKUSHIMA/TAIPEI -- Taiwan voted in a referendum on Nov. 24 to continue its ban on imports of food products from five Japanese eastern and northeastern prefectures, including Fukushima, hit hard by the nuclear crisis, for two more years.

The outcome of the referendum is expected to deal a serious blow to relations between Japan and Taiwan.


According to tallies, approximately 7.79 million Taiwanese voted in favor of the continuation of the ban on the imports of food products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures, while about 2.23 million people opposed the continuation. Voter turnout came to 54.56 percent, well above one-fourth required for the outcome to be valid.


The Taiwanese authority is not allowed to implement policy measures against the outcome of a referendum for a two-year period.


Taiwan prohibited the imports of food products from these five prefectures immediately after the outbreak of the crisis at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011.


In response, the Japanese government has strongly urged Taiwan to lift the ban on the grounds that the safety of such products from these prefectures has been scientifically proven.


The Taiwanese administration of President Tsai Ing-wen considered lifting the ban, but the largest opposition Nationalist Party launched a campaign to provoke a sense of fear among Taiwanese people who are sensitive about food safety and demanded that a referendum on the issue be held.


The exports of agricultural products made in Fukushima Prefecture plummeted to 2.4 metric tons in fiscal 2012 after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. However, the figure rose to some 210 tons in fiscal 2017, the highest figure since fiscal 2005 when statistics are available, because concerns about the safety of foods produced from the prefecture have been dispelled.


Shin Nagamine, 44, a farmer who grows the Koshihikari brand of rice in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Aizubange, has expressed concerns that Taiwan's latest move could spread harmful rumors about products from Fukushima and surrounding areas throughout the world.


"The move is regrettable all the more because we expected that the lifting of the import ban would be a step toward our disaster recovery. I fear that the harmful rumors could spread to surrounding countries and doors that have been opened could be closed again," he said.


The head of a fisheries cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture has calmly responded to Taiwan's decision. "We can't completely reject Taiwanese people's ideas and force them to ease restrictions on our Fukushima products," said Tetsu Nozaki, leader of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.


Since April 2015, radioactive substances in excess of the upper limit set by the central government have not been detected in fish caught off Fukushima.


Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita, who visited the Taiwanese city of Taoyuan in November 2017 to ask that the ban on food products from the five Japanese prefectures be lifted, said his prefecture will continue efforts to persuade Taiwan to ease the ban.


"We've tried to convince the Taiwanese public of the safety of local food products and our response to the matter based on scientific grounds. We'd like to continue tireless efforts to win their understanding," he said.


(Japanese original by Hideyuki Kakinuma, Fukushima Bureau, and Shizuya Fukuoka, Taipei Bureau)



November 27, 2018



Taiwan and Japan to hold trade talks in shadow of vote to keep post-Fukushima food ban





TAIPEI – Taiwan and Japan will hold annual trade talks in Taipei this week, coming after a weekend referendum in the former that could have a negative impact on bilateral relations. [...]





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