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Farmland recovery in Fukushima Pref. lags behind other tsunami-hit areas

Just 33 percent of Fukushima Prefecture farmland hit by the tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake has been restored, compared to an average of 74 percent for all tsunami-hit areas, according to government figures released on March 1.

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been releasing data on the recovery of disaster area farmland every year in March. The area of farmland hit by tsunami ranges over 21,480 hectares in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures. Of this, 15,920 hectares have finished having debris and salt from the tsunami removed and are once again farmable.

    Some 2,120 hectares of the unrestored farmland in Fukushima Prefecture lies within the evacuation zone around the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. However, the 33 percent restoration rate remains low compared to other tsunami-hit regions including Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, where 88 and 67 percent of tsunami-damaged farmland can be planted again, respectively.

    Meanwhile, merging of farmland into plots larger than 1 hectare is gradually proceeding, with 49 percent of the 8,990 hectares in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures planned for this already consolidated.

    At 319 tsunami-hit fishing ports in the six prefectures including Hokkaido, dock construction and other work has proceeded, with 97 percent now fully or partly capable of accepting catches. Although the ministry estimates that the remaining fishing ports will also be usable by the end of March, only 73 percent of them have been restored to full functionality.

    Agriculture minister Hiroshi Moriyama told a post-Cabinet meeting news conference, "We now have an outlook for infrastructure recovery (in tsunami-hit areas). In Fukushima, we still need measures to fight against damaging unfounded rumors." The next challenges appear likely to be luring farmers to work the land and finding new buyers for the agricultural products from it.

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