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Evacuated Fukushima town begins efforts to have produce restrictions lifted

People are seen planting produce during a cultivation test in the Morotake district of the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 2, 2019, in this photo provided by the Futaba Municipal Government.

FUTABA, Fukushima -- Vegetable cultivation trials began in September in this town, which has been completely evacuated since Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station melted down following the earthquakes and tsunami in March 2011.

The prefectural government has been putting on the trials with cooperation from the town office as well as farmers who were based in the town in northeastern Japan.

At a full staff meeting of the town assembly on Sept. 5, it was explained that if the crops can be confirmed to be safe, then the aim will be to have shipping restrictions removed on a part of the town whose evacuation orders are expected to be lifted next spring. It is thought that doing so will help revive farming in the area.

According to the town office, seeds and saplings for five produce items, including broccoli, cabbage and spinach, were planted at three locations in the Morotake district on Sept. 2. The district is currently classed as an area preparing for the lifting of an evacuation order, from which orders may soon be lifted.

It is the first planting in the town to produce food since the onset of the nuclear disaster in March 2011. Harvesting is expected to take place from late October to mid-November, but because the aim is to confirm data, all of the crop will be disposed of and not distributed.

If the inspection can confirm that the radiation dosage is lower than the national standard of 100 becquerels per 1 kilogram, then the prefectural government will make a request to the national government to have the shipment restrictions on the area removed.

Shipment restrictions are aimed at leafy and non-leafy headed types of vegetables, as well as mustards such as broccoli, and turnips. Immediately after the start of the nuclear disaster, these items all across the prefecture were under restrictions, but as areas have each confirmed the safety of their crops, they have been lifted.

Excluding areas deemed "difficult-to-return" zones, only the parts of Futaba that are classed as preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders remain as areas yet to have the restrictions removed.

(Japanese original by Tatsushi Inui, Iwaki Local Bureau)

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