Japan Drafts Plan to Compensate Tea Growers

TOKYO, Japan

A draft government-backed plan to compensate Japanese farmers will include tea growers that suffered losses due to radioactive fallout.

The March explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant spread radioactive particles for hundreds of kilometers causing a subsequent ban on the sale of produce, flowers, hay, beef and even lumber. Tourism also suffered and will be included in the third draft of the provisional compensation guidelines presented by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Approval is expected this week.

According to reports in the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, “Tea growers in eight prefectures, including Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Saitama, will be eligible to apply for compensation payments. In addition, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma and Tochigi, plus part of Chiba Prefecture, were deemed eligible for compensation. The specifics of how the compensation will be funded, in a joint effort between the government, TEPCO and others, have yet to be decided.”

Compensation will be limited to those business operators whose activities within the government-designated evacuation areas at the time of the disaster were affected severely for reasons such as their business being suspended, according to the newspaper. The panel regards losses in sales as "indirect damage" as a result of radiation fears and will not qualify.

Total losses to Japan’s $1.3 billion tea industry have not been calculated but are substantial. The regions where most of Japan’s tea is grown are generally outside the fallout zone. Tea grown in the immediate area of the damaged reactors in Fukushima Prefecture is banned along with gardens in Ibaraki Prefecture, some of Kanagawa Prefecture and six towns in Chiba Prefecture and some gardens as far as 225 miles south were reported to have unacceptably high concentrations of cesium.

Ashigara tea and tea grown in Aoi and Suruga wards of Shizuoka City as well as tea processing facilities in Warashina were all included in the ban. The area produced 3,240 tons of unrefined, dried leaves in 2010.

The release of radioactive iodine and cesium peaked between March 14 and 16 following the March 11 quake and tsunami. It is now evident there were meltdowns in three reactors and that an estimated 770,000 terabecquerels of radioactive particles were released. A terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels, a measure of radiation. The release is between 20 and 40 percent of the 1986 fallout from Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear disaster.

A cold shutdown of the reactors is months away. Progress this week was hampered by record-high radiation levels of more than 10 sieverts (10,000 millisieverts) per hour detected in a pipe at the power plant, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co. Exposure to radiation of that level for just six minutes is enough to cause nausea and other acute symptoms.

Source: The Daily Yomiuri (Shimbun)