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Japan welcomes Hong Kong lifting food ban, expects export growth

Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito, right, visits the Japanese pavilion at Hong Kong's Food Expo on Aug. 16, 2018. (Kyodo)

HONG KONG (Kyodo) -- Japan's agricultural minister on Thursday welcomed Hong Kong's lifting of a ban on food imported from four Japanese prefectures imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying it will further boost exports to Hong Kong.

"We are very grateful that there has been a relaxation on the restrictions on import," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito told reporters while visiting Hong Kong's annual Food Expo. "We will continue with the necessary (work over the remaining food ban on Fukushima.)"

Saito is scheduled to meet with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday.

Imports of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk formula from the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma could resume now that the ban was lifted in late July, as long as exporters provide an exporter certificate and a certificate attesting that the products' radiation levels are below guidelines.

But an existing food import ban against Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains in place.

"Regardless of any restrictions, our exports to Hong Kong are continuing to expand. We sincerely hope that thanks to (the food expo), there will be a further increase in our exports to Hong Kong," Saito said.

Hong Kong is the largest destination for Japanese produce, consuming about a quarter of the amount exported globally, Saito said.

Hong Kong Trade Development Council figures show that Japan's food exports to Hong Kong amounted to US$97 million in January, accounting for over 24 percent of such exports.

Currently, only China and Taiwan maintain a comprehensive ban on food imports from certain areas in Japan.

The food fair, featuring more than 1,500 exhibitors from some 20 countries, will run through Monday.

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