Volunteers recruited to pick pear flowers in Chiba after fire blight outbreak in China blocks pollen imports

CHIBA, April 6 — With imports of pear pollen from China suspended due to the recent outbreak of fire blight in the country, the city of Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture has recruited pear flower picking volunteers as an emergency measure for growers to obtain pollen.

The volunteers actively took part in hand-harvesting flowers after receiving training.

Chiba boasts Japan’s largest pear cultivating area and Ichikawa is the No. 2 pear growing municipality in the prefecture.

Following the suspension of Chinese-made pollen imports, the Ichikawa Municipal Government’s agriculture promotion division hurriedly recruited volunteers in January to make up for the shortage of workers collecting pollen.

Artificial pollination is essential for pear trees, which do not bear fruit with their own pollen. But collecting flowers to obtain pollen requires a lot of manpower and it is becoming difficult for growers to carry out the task on their own, making them rely increasingly on imported pollen.

The Ichikawa government recruited 100 volunteers and more than 350 people, from under 20 to those in their 80s, applied.

The volunteers are required to take part in a training session beforehand to engage in flower picking for around two and a half hours in orchards.

The city government on April 5 showed the hand-harvesting process to the media.

The work started on March 27, as flowers bloomed later than usual because of much rain this season. A total of 103 volunteers were dispatched to 14 pear farms by April 4.

Due to the delayed blooming, the municipal government extended the period of dispatch by three days until April 10.

Kazuaki Arai, head of the fruit tree growers’ group at JA Ichikawa, a local agricultural cooperative, says he has been completely dependent on pollen from China.

“I’m running my farm wit

Volunteers take part in hand-harvesting of pear flowers to be used to collect pollen on April 5 in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture.

Volunteers take part in hand-harvesting of pear flowers to be used to collect pollen on April 5 in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture.

h my son and we have been struggling to handle all the work only by ourselves,” Arai said, thanking the volunteers.

Takuto Tsukada, 24, a company employee of Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, who took part in the volunteer activity, said with a smile, “I was able to be of help to the producers and I was also given an opportunity to learn about pears.”

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