With early rice harvests under way in Fukushima Prefecture, farmers are keeping their fingers crossed that this year's crop passes government radiation checks.
For the second year following the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the Fukushima prefectural government is inspecting all bags of rice produced in the prefecture to ensure levels of radiation are below government limits, which were lowered this year to 100 becquerels per kilogram.
On Aug. 23, early-harvest rice was collected at Takayuki Anzai's farm in Nihonmatsu.
"I harvested the rice hoping no radioactive substances will be found," Anzai, 58, said.
Last year, rice produced at another farm in the same district were found to contain about 130 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. As a result, last year's rice harvest across the district was not shipped at the prefecture's request, even though the level was below the provisional state standard at that time.
This year, farmers in the district have taken measures to reduce radiation levels in their crops, including spreading zeolite on their fields to absorb the radioactive cesium, to meet the government's new stricter limits.
Early-harvest rice was also collected Aug. 23 at a farm in Aizubange owned by a farming corporation. Harvesting of common varieties is expected to be in full swing from late September.
The early crops will be checked on Aug. 25, and if radiation levels do not exceed the 100-becquerel limit, it will be shipped as early as Aug. 27.
After the checks are completed, a sticker with a QR code will be put on the bags of rice so that distributors can confirm the test results. The prefecture is also considering putting a sticker on bags of polished rice to show consumers the products have cleared the checks.
Councils formed by municipalities and rice consignees will carry out the actual inspection operations.
Separately, the central government this year will focus on examining rice from farms and districts where more than 50 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium was detected in last year's crops. Fukushima Prefecture is expected to have 35,000 such locations.
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