Moriyama Hiroshi, Japanese Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Singapore's Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong

Japan requests Singapore to review restriction of food imports from Fukushima

It has been reported by Japanese media, Jiji press that Mr Moriyama Hiroshi, Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister has requested a review on the restriction of food imports from Fukushima, Japan during the meet up with Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong on 10 January. Mr Hiroshi was in Singapore over the weekend to officiate a series of events to mark the start of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Japan.

The Japanese minister had asked Singapore to relax its restriction on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. He noted that the European Union (EU) had begun relaxing its regulations on Japanese food imports. Mr Hiroshi reportedly said, “I explained about the mitigation measures of EU and also requested a relaxation of regulation based on scientific basis.”

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is under the purview of Ministry of National Development. It said in response to queries from the media, “The AVA will adopt a science-based approach in its assessment, with food safety for Singaporeans as the key priority.” As part of its review of Japan’s request, it is studying the EU’s import conditions.

The tsunami in 2011 damaged the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plant, and caused nearby areas to be irradiated, with residents within 20 km of the plant mandatory evacuated, causing much panic over health concerns in the country. AVA banned the import of some food products from 11 prefectures soon after the incident.

A few years later in May 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced during a joint press conference with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that AVA would be easing restrictions on food imports from Japan with immediate effect, including Fukushima prefecture. He attributed the decision of lifting the restriction to AVA’s review and on-site assessment, as well as satisfactory surveillance results from Japan and AVA.

Also, it was reported that 300kg of rice from Fukushima was sold to Singapore in August 2013.

Currently, pre-export tests are still needed for seafood and products from the forests of Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma, such as berries and boar meat. Seafood, forest and agricultural produce from areas in Fukushima with high radioactive contamination or areas near the nuclear power plant cannot be imported. AVA requests a Certificate of Origin is required for all food products from Japan so that their prefecture of origin can be identified.

Fukushima official Tsuneaki Oonami shared with the media earlier on 4 January that Fukushima rice has passed Japan’s radiation checks for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster that prompted international alarm over the region’s produce, a prefectural official said.

360,000 tonnes of rice, nearly all of last year’s harvest, had been checked and none had tested above the 100 becquerels per kilogram limit set by the government.

“The fact that the amount of rice that does not pass our checks has steadily reduced in the last three years indicates that we’re taking the right steps,” said Oonami, who heads the department that oversees Fukushima rice farming.