The farm ministry on March 9 slapped a ban on the cultivation of rice in 7,300 hectares of paddies in Fukushima Prefecture.
Taken together with voluntary bans by local governments, the announcement brings the total area of paddies in Fukushima in which rice planting has been prohibited to about 10,500 hectares, or about one-eighth of the area used for rice growing before the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
There will be special supervision of rice farming on an additional 4,000 hectares of paddies in six municipalities in the prefecture.
The list published by the farm ministry on March 9 was based on reports submitted by municipal governments and is in line with new guidelines from the farm ministry presented Feb. 28 to comply with the new 100 becquerel per kilogram maximum for radioactive cesium in food.
That standard is due to take effect in April and the list is expected to get formal government approval the same month.
The 7,300 hectares of land on which rice planting has been banned include the no-entry zone within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the "planned evacuation zone" extending to the northwest of that radius, and 10 districts in the cities of Fukushima, Date, Nihonmatsu and Soma.
Municipal governments have voluntarily opted to stop rice planting in Minami-Soma and what was formerly the "emergency evacuation preparation zone" lying between 20 and 30 km from the nuclear plant. If those areas are included, paddies where no rice will be planted will cover 400 hectares more than last year, when rice farming was banned on slightly over 10,000 hectares of land.
The 4,000 hectares of paddies where rice planting is being authorized conditionally cover 30 districts in the four cities of Fukushima, Date, Nihonmatsu and Motomiya, as well as four districts in Kori and Kunimi towns. Approval will be conditional on the submission of management plans covering the entire farming process from planting to harvesting, and on the implementation of exhaustive inspections of all rice bags at the time of shipment.
The prefectural and municipal governments of Fukushima plan to create a register describing the state of all paddies in the areas affected. They plan to submit management programs to the central government by June and to arrange for the rice inspections, sources said.
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