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Exports of farm products from Fukushima Prefecture have continued to grow, overcoming the reputational damage brought about by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The exports hit a record high in terms of volume for the third straight year in fiscal 2019 and managed to remain at a high level in fiscal 2020 despite the negative impact of the coronavirus.

Local farmers feel that unfounded rumors about contamination of Fukushima food are receding, although there are concerns that the government’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the nuclear power plant into the ocean will create further reputational damage.

Following the nuclear disaster at the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., up to 54 countries and regions have restricted imports of Fukushima-grown farm products, such as peach and rice. Currently, 14 economies, including China and South Korea, ban such imports.

The exports grew as restrictions worldwide eased, reaching 305 tons in fiscal 2019, which ended in March 2020, double the level seen prior to the disaster.

In fiscal 2020, Fukushima peach exports halved as sales promotion campaigns in Malaysia and other countries had to be suspended due to the spread of the virus.

In Hong Kong and Singapore, however, Fukushima rice attracted strong household demand as the pandemic forced people to stay home.

As a result, rice exports dropped only by 6.6% from fiscal 2019, to 285 tons. For the current year, exports are expected to surpass the fiscal 2020 level.

Since the nuclear disaster, Tetsuo Goto, a peach farmer in the town of Koori, has been trying to grow a high-sugar breed called CX. He has also acquired a good agricultural practice certificate for sustainable farming.

Thanks to these efforts, Goto is receiving more orders than before the disaster and has managed to attract more consumers.

While he has shrugged off the fallout from the pandemic, concerns persist over the release of water from the plant.

“I don’t want to see malicious rumors spread again,” Goto said.

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