MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–The rice fields have lain fallow in this northern coastal city since tsunami deluged the area in 2011. But now, for the first time since then, farmers will start planting rice for harvest on about 3,200 hectares of paddies.
A general meeting of a council consisting of city officials and an agricultural association decided Dec. 13 to allow farmers to plant anew.
The farmers voluntarily refrained from growing rice after the onset of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Although the paddies to be replanted are located outside the evacuation zone, the central government continues to prohibit the cultivation of rice on about 5,300 hectares of the fields within the evacuation zone. It is expected to decide on an extent of the restriction for 2014 in January at the earliest.
Farmers planted rice on about 123 hectares of paddies in Minami-Soma on an experimental basis earlier this year.
But partly due to a delay in decontamination work at the paddies, radioactive cesium exceeding the government’s safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram was detected in some of the crops from those fields.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, one farmer said that they should wait until safety is confirmed before going ahead with replanting.
“(The council) should hold a thorough investigation to determine why radioactive cesium is exceeding the safety limit,” the farmer said.
However, with the city pledging to fully support the restart of rice growing, the Dec. 13 meeting decided on the resumption of rice planting by majority vote.