Main Fukushima tobacco farmers prepare to ship via Yomiuri Online

FUKUSHIMA–Farmers in Fukushima Prefecture have harvested leaf tobacco for the first time since cultivation was temporarily stopped due to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and are making preparations to ship the product around December.

This year, leaf tobacco farmers enthusiastic about reviving the product took measures to reduce the effects of radioactive substances. Currently, the farmers are awaiting the results of radiation tests on harvested tobacco leaves, and are pinning their hopes on making shipments this year.

In Fukushima Prefecture, farmers grow two kinds of leaf tobacco–a native species and burley leaves.

In fiscal 2010, about 1,770 tons of tobacco leaves with recorded sales of about 3.24 billion yen were harvested in the prefecture, the eighth largest in the nation.

Due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Japan Tobacco Inc. soliciting farmers willing to quit leaf tobacco farming, the number of farmers in the prefecture dropped from 1,167 in 2011 to 675. Total farmland also fell from about 900 hectares to about 620 hectares.

“We’ve got high-quality tobacco this year,” Naoya Ohashi said after he finished harvesting his 130-hectare farm in Tamura in the prefecture. In April last year, he disposed of about 30,000 tobacco seedlings after the prefecture’s tobacco producers union requested farmers halt planting due to fears of soil contamination.

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