National | Regional Voices: Fukushima

Fukushima’s recovering farmers scramble to deal with scorching weather

Fukushima Minpo

Amid scorching temperatures that have gripped the entire nation, farmers in Fukushima Prefecture are beginning to see the high temperatures and scarce rain take a toll on their carefully tended produce.

Agricultural cooperatives are scrambling to respond by giving farmers information and techniques that will help their crops survive the extremely hot weather.

According to an agricultural cooperative that represents 30 farmers in the Aizu area, growers of chrysanthemums have reported cases where the blossoming of the flowers has been delayed by the heat.

Kenzo Kikuchi, a chrysanthemum grower in the town of Aizumisato, said most of his plants haven’t progressed beyond the bud stage this year.

Kikuchi, 68, usually starts shipping chrysanthemum blossoms in late July or early August, and the business peaks just before the Bon holidays.

Chrysanthemums are typically part of the offerings made at Buddhist altars when Japanese honor the spirits of their ancestors during Bon.

According to Kikuchi, the chrysanthemum plants are staying in the bud stage to shield themselves from the heat. Their stems have also turned limp, making it difficult for growers to prune unneeded buds and leaves.

“I never thought high temperatures would continue for such a long time,” he said. “I really hope to see blossoms before the Bon holidays.”

Rice farmers are also seeing negative effects from the extreme weather.

A rice farmer in the town of Aizubange said irrigation water is becoming scarce, forcing some plants to wither.

The farmer said he tries pumping water from drainage canals near his paddies instead. But that requires buying extra fuel to keep the pumps running, plus additional time and effort, he said.

“Some farmers said even their drainage water has run out. I’m concerned about the quality of our rice,” he said.

The prefecture’s peach growers are echoing those concerns.

In northern Fukushima Prefecture, where the Akatsuki peach brand is the area’s major agricultural product, now is the time for harvest.

Although this year’s peaches taste unusually sweet, each one is a bit smaller, apparently a result of this summer’s intense heat and lack of rain, local farmers say.

Chusaku Anzai, 69, who runs an orchard in the town of Iizaka, said if the drought continues, apples and other kinds of fruit stand to be affected as well.

In southern Fukushima, the scorching weather is taking a toll on summer vegetables.

Sadakazu Sato, 53, a senior official from JA’s (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives’) Aguri Yume Minami, which runs three retail depots in the region, fewer cucumbers, kidney beans and other seasonal veggies than average are going to market.

This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on July 31.