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JA Aizu-Yotsuba teams with Yoshimoto Kogyo to promote farm produce sales in western Japan

8 July 2018

JA Aizu-Yotsuba, a group of farmers in the Aizu region, southwestern Fukushima Prefecture, is set to promote branding of local farm produce in partnership with Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., an entertainment conglomerate based in Osaka, in an attempt to step up sales in the Kansai region centering on the western Japan city. The cooperation program was endorsed by Yoshimoto when JA Aizu-Yotsuba head Kazuo Hasegawa visited its head office and Osaka headquarters in Osaka city on July 7.

The group, an Aizuwakamatsu city-based chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group (JA), will set up an “Aizu Yoshimoto farm” (tentative name) in the Aizu region to cultivate rice, vegetables and other crops in cooperation with popular entertainers in a bid to expand consumption of local agricultural products in a campaign featuring the showbiz giant’s name. JA Aizu-Yotsuba plans to expand sales channels to regions other than Kansai in the future so as to help stabilize management of member farmers.

The branding scheme will be launched in fiscal 2019 beginning next April. Under the plan, farmland of member farmers cooperating for the project will be used as contracted farms. Yoshimoto entertainers will engage in planting and harvesting while farmers will take care of routine cultivation to ensure product quality. Targeted for production are a variety of farm produce, including cucumbers and edible rice, both abundantly shipped to the Kansai region, as well as asparagus popular in the Aizu region.

Playing a leading role in the campaign among Yoshimoto entertainers will be Sanpei (Tomoyuki Sanpei), a comedian based in Fukushima Prefecture (a native of Motomiya city, central Fukushima). He will participate in a sales campaign dubbed “Natsu Matsuri (summer festival) of Aizu,” scheduled for August in Tokyo, and a hands-on harvesting experience in Aizu this fall, among other activities, emphasizing the partnership between JA Aizu-Yotsuba and Yoshimoto.

The local JA group intends to cooperate with 17 municipalities in the Aizu region, promoting their products and, at the same time, sending out their tourism information to help boost regional economic activity.

During his Osaka visit, Hasegawa met with Atsuo Nitta, executive managing director of Yoshimoto Creative Agency, a Yoshimoto subsidiary responsible for the management of entertainers. “We would like to borrow Yoshimoto Kogyo’s transmission capability and power of laughter in publicizing the attractiveness of our products and tourism across the country,” Hasegawa told Nitta. Given Yoshimoto’s emphasis on its support for Fukushima’s reconstruction from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Nitta said his group “would like to team up with JA Aizu-Yotsuba in sending out local information throughout the country.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)

2 July 2018

45.9% of Fukushima residents oppose removal of nuke radiation monitors

Nearly 50% of residents in Fukushima Prefecture are against a central government policy to remove some 2,400 posts in the prefecture for monitoring nuclear radiation from fallout left by the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to an opinion poll jointly conducted by Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the namesake local daily, and Fukushima Television Broadcasting Co.

The 22nd survey of people living in the prefecture found 45.9% of those polled were opposed to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s policy, exceeding 25.0% in favor. Some respondents called for the maintenance of radiation monitoring posts to ensure safety and peace of mind while others endorsed the policy due to the reduction in radiation dosage and other reasons, highlighting the presence of diverse opinions over existence of the radiation monitoring system.

Asked about the pros and cons of the policy, 22.9% chose “neither,” and 6.3% “don’t know.” By gender, 34.0% of men and 20.7% of women were in favor of removing the monitoring posts, while 46.5% of men and 45.3% of women were against.

As reasons for their opposition, 40.4%, the largest proportion of respondents, said “monitoring posts kept in place lead to peace of mind in everyday life,” followed by 26.3% who cited “the need to prepare for an increase in radiation dosage,” 16.8% who pointed to “the need to grasp changes in radiation doses on their own” and 12.5% who saw it necessary to “confirm the safety of children at school and elsewhere.”

The findings indicate that many residents want a radiation monitoring mechanism near them even though seven years and a little more than three months have elapsed since the nuclear disaster. Bearing in mind the prospect of reactor decommissioning taking a long time, many respondents also appeared to be reflecting in their answers a need to retain monitoring posts in the event of a rise in radiation dosage that may result from problems that may arise during decommissioning work.

Concerning reasons for favoring the policy, the greatest margin of 38.2% said “monitoring is not necessary because of reduced radiation dosage,” followed by 33.1% who replied that “removal of monitoring posts will lead to dissipating harmful rumors,” 12.9% who said they “want to restore landscapes to what they used to be before the accident” and 4.5% who said they “feel uncomfortable at the sight of monitoring posts.”

The reasons given by supporters of the authority’s policy indicate that there are a certain number of prefectural people who are pinning hopes on the recovery of Fukushima’s image through removal of the monitors, interpreting as a positive sign the decreasing radiation dosage compared with the level right after the accident.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

21 June 2018

Fukushima eyes Japan's No. 1 position in GAP certification of safe food

The Fukushima prefectural government has decided to promote some locally produced farm, forestry and fisheries products, including rice, cucumbers, tomatoes and peaches, as priority items with the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) food safety certification which it will seek to supply to the athletes' village during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The local government intends to stage a full-fledged campaign urging major catering companies to buy Fukushima-produced food in serving athletes and other participants, starting with a business meeting with related concerns on July 19 in Tokyo.

In the campaign, Fukushima will call for use of its products whose output ranks high among Japan's 47 prefectures and whose supply is stable. These products include cucumbers, boasting the largest volume of shipments to the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market on a prefectural basis in the summer-autumn season (July-October), and peaches from the second-largest crop in Japan.

Fukushima will invite about 100 people to the business meeting, including those from major catering firms, hotels and restaurants, using the first shot of the campaign to publicize the attractiveness of prefectural products. It will also sponsor a tour of production sites in Fukushima this fall for participants in the meeting in an effort to promote their understanding of product safety, marred by the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, and ensure successful business deals. The prefecture hopes to use the Tokyo Olympics as an opportunity to establish a practice for food-related businesses to buy Fukushima products routinely, eventually paving the way for post-Olympics marketing routes at home and abroad.

Meals at the athletes' village are to be provided by catering companies selected by the Tokyo 2020 Games organizing committee. In choosing food ingredients, they are required to meet procurement standards specified by the committee, including GAP and Marine Eco-Label (MEL) domestic certification given to fisheries products hauled with emphasis on seafood resource conservation. Fukushima and the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group's branches in the prefecture are pushing ahead with a program seeking to achieve Japan's No. 1 prefectural position in terms of the number of GAP-certified products, a move with food supply to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in sight. Under the program, its promoters will work steadily to acquire GAP certification for summertime agricultural, forestry and fisheries products.

Ahead of the campaign launch, the prefectural government, organizations of producers and other parties concerned set up a "Fukushima Pride: Food Action Promotion Council" at an inaugural meeting in Fukushima city on June 20 to enhance the endeavor. "We will make efforts to increase GAP certification and, while publicizing the safety of our food, have our farm produce enjoyed by people from Japan and abroad during the Tokyo Olympics," Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told the gathering as he expressed his resolve to spur the blitz. "We would like to establish an environment where local agricultural products can secure retail shelf space even after the Tokyo Olympics."

■Main farm, forestry and marine products to be given priority in the promotional campaign designed to ensure supply for the Tokyo Olympics:
Rice, cucumber, asparagus, tomato, Japanese white radish, spinach, bell pepper, eggplant, corn, beef, pork, chicken (Kawamata brand "shamo" and Aizu brand "jidori"), peach, grape, flounder, whitespotted conger, abalone, surf clam, bonito.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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