Date : November 30 - December 1, 2011
Report: Press Tour on Recovery of Food Industry (November 30-December 1, 2011)
post date : 2013.08.24
“Food Industry Summit 2011” was held in Sendai on November 30 (11-30), inverting the March 11 date (03-11) when the great earthquake occurred. It was a conference to discuss measures for the reconstruction of the food industry and reform for growth. The press tour attended the conference and also covered farmers and fishermen to grasp the extent of recovery of the food industry. A total of 13 journalists from 12 media companies participated in this press tour. The participants’ media were from 9 countries/regions: Canada, China, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, the UK and the USA.
The journalists participated in the first half session of “Food Industry Summit 2011,” whose theme was on food safety issues and the specialists presented their views on methods of testing food for radiation, decontaminating the farmland, and other challenges. At the opening of the summit, Mr. Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, sent a message through video letter: “The government will work primarily to regain the trust of consumers, wiping out the damage caused by rumors, by ensuring intensive inspection and disclosing information both domestically and internationally.” Mr. Kohey Takashima, the host of this summit and Chief Director of Eat and Energize the East, emphasized the need to continue putting effort into the following: insuring food safety and reliability; broadening the marketing route; promoting sixth industrialization and sharing successful business cases. The tour also attended the reception, where a variety of East Food dishes were prepared, to see for themselves the recovery of the food industry.
Next, the journalists visited a farm flooded by the tsunami in Higashi Matsushima City, where Sendai-Hakusai (Chinese cabbage) is cultivated. Mr. Mitsuo Sugawara and Mrs. Tomoko Sugawara have farmland only a few hundred meters away from the coastline. They feared it would be impossible to cultivate any crops this year since the land contained salt from seawater at the beginning. However, persuaded by Miyagi Prefectural Headquarters, National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (ZEN-NOH), they grew Sendai-Hakusai perfectly. They were also able to harvest cherry tomatoes thanks to volunteers who helped to clean up the debris inside greenhouse. When they saw those crops, they felt hope for the first time since the quake. The journalists asked details of what happened at the moment of the tsunami and earthquake while enjoying Miso-soup with Pork and Sendai-Hakusai prepared by Mr. & Mrs. Sugawara.
Then the journalists covered the Hydroponic system for growing tomatoes which was built in the rice paddies that had been flooded by the tsunami. Saizeriya Co,.Ltd, which operates over 900 Italian restaurants in Japan, aims to set up a major tomato supply farm in this area to support the recovery of agriculture. The group company, Shirakawa Highland Farm lnc., initiates building greenhouses and growing tomatoes by hydroponics. Mr. Mitsuhiro Yahagi, Director of Shirakawa Highland Farm Inc., said the most important thing in this region is to reduce heating costs during winter. The farm will try out four different heating systems due to current situation of energy in Japan. They are finding the most cost-effective way of producing vegetables in the Tohoku region. The first harvest will be in March if they can plant tomatoes around Christmas. The journalist from Taiwan wanted to follow the progress of this project.
Butai Farm Co., Ltd. is a farm of the 15th generation going back to the origins of the domain of Date. It is an agricultural production corporation with 130 employees producing and selling rice and vegetables.
According to Mr. Nobuo Hariu, CEO of Butai Farm Co., Ltd., the consumers’ interest in food safety has shifted from the traceability of agrichemicals and fertilizer to whether the radiation level exceeds the regulation limits. The journalists asked mainly about the company’s system of radiation tests on food. Mr. Hariu pointed out the problem of complicated regulations on the limit of radiation in food, not only for consumers but also for growers, which arouses distrust in consumers. Butai Farm has employed a radiation test on food from this November, which was originally carried out by EEE (Eat and Energize the East). The monitoring already being carried out by government agencies is only a sampling test. Butai Farm is trying to provide additional reassurance by supplementing the government agencies’ monitoring by conducting test as widely as possible. After the briefing by Mr. Hariu, the journalists visited a vegetable processing factory where a radiation test on spinach had just been conducted.
Then the journalists visited Ogatsu Town, Ishinomaki City, which is a two-hour drive from Sendai City. Its population decreased from 4300 to under 1000 due to the quake. Mr. Hiromitsu Itoh, representative director of OH! Guts! llc., said that although the tsunami took away everything from us, in return, it brought us many people in here. One of the founders, Mr. Takashi Tachibana, gave us a briefing and showed us the place that used to be the center of the town, and their workshop. OH! Guts! llc. has an “ownership system” called “Sodate-no-junin (residents for cultivating).” For this system, each participant not only purchases seafood but also can take part in aquaculture. By doing so, about 50 owners come to Ogatsu Town, every week. Mr. Tachibana mentioned about slight changes in attitude among fishermen since they can meet consumers (residents for cultivating) directly, which had not happened under complicated conventional distribution system.
The journalists asked various questions including the moment of the quake, the reconstruction plan of Ogatsu town and how to bring up successors under such a disastrous situation. The tour ended with visiting aquaculture farms in Ogatsu bay by fishing boat in the glow of sunset.