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Kagome turns to Tohoku to grow its tomatoes

Chunichi Shimbun

Nagoya company Kagome Co. is promoting tomato cultivation in areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The tomato ketchup and vegetable-based beverage maker has been expanding local production of tomatoes as part of its goal to produce its tomato juice entirely within Japan.

Hoping that this will help revitalize the farm industry and alleviate unemployment problems, the company has invited agricultural corporations and farmers to grow tomatoes along the shores of Miyagi Prefecture, which were ravaged by the tsunami disaster in 2011.

Fields of rice, cabbage, potatoes and other crops spread across the Nobiru region in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, near a river that flows to the Pacific Ocean.

In the corner is a crop of tomatoes, grown for the first time on that land.

“I hope we will get plenty of good tomatoes this summer,” said 35-year-old Yoshinori Koreeda, a Kagome employee in charge of support for contract farmers and agricultural corporations from the Tohoku branch.

In addition to managing its own farms, Kagome has contracts with farmers and farming corporations from various regions in Japan.

They began cultivating tomatoes in Fukushima Prefecture before the earthquake took place, and started doing the same in Miyagi Prefecture in 2012.

In the beginning, the company had contracted with only one agricultural corporation located inland, but in 2013 it turned its eyes toward the shore and increased the number to 12, with a total production output of 100 tons.

This year, more than 20 farmers and corporations will be growing tomatoes for the firm.

Under the contract with these producers, Kagome purchases all of the tomatoes they produce at a fixed price regardless of how good the harvest is that season. This means farmers don’t have to worry about the supply exceeding the demand, which usually drives prices of their crops down.

Tomatoes are very easy to grow. Koreeda and other Kagome staff also check the crops and give farming advice if necessary.

“It’s a benefit to disaster victims who require a stable income. This is also beneficial to our company because we are guaranteed a certain amount of products and do not have to worry about volatile prices,” explained Koreeda.

Agriead Naruse is one of the agricultural corporations in the Nobiru region planning to try its hand at cultivating tomatoes.

When the tsunami hit, 80 percent of its farmland, about 70 hectares, was submerged.

Soon afterward, the salt was removed from the land and rice and vegetables were planted again.

“The recovery of this region depends on the revival of the farming industry,” said Toshiro Abe, 56, president of the corporation.

He rented the lands of farmers who had given up on farming after the earthquake and has expanded his business. He has also increased the variety of crops it produces.

This year he decided to try tomato cultivation, starting with a small size of 30 ares on a trial basis, but he plans to increase the crop size next year if everything goes well.

Koreeda goes around the region looking for farmers and corporations interested in growing tomatoes for Kagome. For this year’s batch, farmers have to sign a contract with Kagome until the end of March.

He continued working all through the winter, hoping that his efforts would help “revitalize the farming industry in any way possible.”

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on March 12.