Thursday, 9 Jul 2020

Keep persuading China, South Korea to lift food import restrictions: Yomiuri Shimbun

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Recognition of the safety of food from Japan has been spreading in the world.

Efforts should be made to provide explanations based on a scientific foundation, to thwart harmful rumours.

Moves to ease or abolish import restrictions on Japanese food imposed after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings Inc’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have been made one after another.

The European Union in November lifted requirements for radiation inspection certificates for all food items from Iwate, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures and for fishery products and a wide range of other food items from Miyagi, Ibaraki and Gunma prefectures.

Also in November, Singapore announced it would lift its suspension on imports of food from Fukushima Prefecture.

In October, Macao lifted an import ban on vegetables, fruits and dairy products from Miyagi and eight other prefectures as long as required documents are attached.

Such moves will make it easier for Japanese producers to export their products. This is apparently the result of the government’s tenacious diplomacy.

The EU has particularly strong international influence on such factors as food safety standards. The EU move to ease import restrictions must be utilised to persuade other countries.

The number of countries and territories imposing import restrictions has decreased to about 20 from 54 right after the nuclear accident.

However, many countries and territories still have import suspensions in place.

Japan’s inspection of the effects of radioactive substances on food is stricter than international standards. It is essential to seek understanding on food safety by presenting objective data.

Especially important are approaches to China and South Korea.

Except for some items, China blocks foods from 10 prefectures in eastern Japan. Resumption of imports of high-quality Japanese food apparently will bring large benefits for consumers in China.

China has announced a plan to resume Japanese beef imports, which have been suspended since 2001 in the wake of a breakout of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Japan is urged to continue requests for other food items.

South Korea suspends imports of fisheries products from eight prefectures and vegetables from 14 prefectures in eastern Japan, among others.

In addition, South Korea has been carrying out inspections for radioactive substances on other food imports from Japan and strengthened inspections in August.

Such moves are seen as responses to the deteriorating Japan-South Korea relation, and they run counter to the international trend.

South Korea also reportedly has expressed concerns over the provision at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics of foodstuffs from areas affected by the 2011 disaster.

It must not be overlooked because such a move may promote harmful rumours. The government has to counter such unjust arguments with a resolute attitude.

In its growth strategy, the government has set a goal of increasing exports of agriculture, forestry and fisheries products to ¥1 trillion (S$ 12.4 billion) in 2019.

However, it has become difficult to achieve this goal. The government will establish an organisation in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry in April next year to serve as a control tower for promotion of food exports.

Issues must be examined again to enhance efforts for exports.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.

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