Japan to ask H.K. to lift food import ban

Kyodo

Japan plans to appeal to Hong Kong to lift its ban on imports of Japanese foods from regions affected by the nuclear disaster that started two years ago, a Tokyo government official said Thursday on the opening day of an annual food fair.

Last October there were 42 countries and regions that had restrictions on food imports from Japan as a result of the nuclear crisis, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

“There are seven prefectures in Japan that cannot export some of their products to Hong Kong, so we are trying to explain, persuade the government of Hong Kong to lift the ban,” said Masayuki Yamashita, director general of the ministry’s food industry affairs bureau.

“I am confident that those products subject to the restrictions will be treated as normal products,” he said.

Yamashita said Japan plans to double its global food exports to $10 billion by 2020.

A record 230 exporters are participating in the Food Expo this year, highlighting the territory’s love for Japanese food, including seafood, sake, rice and tobacco.

Hong Kong is the world’s top destination for Japan’s food exports, consuming nearly 22 percent, or $1 billion worth, of Japan’s agricultural and seafood products last year, followed by the United States, Taiwan, mainland China and South Korea, ministry data show.

Hong Kong’s 2012 imports, however, were down 11.3 percent from the previous year.