Japan’s first shipment of Niigata-grown rice for China sets sail

YOKOHAMA, Jan. 9 ― The first shipment of rice to China sourced exclusively from Niigata prefecture, one of Japan’s most renowned rice producers, is set to depart from the Port of Yokohama.

JA ZEN-NOH, the National Federation of Agriculture Cooperative Associations, the marketing arm of JA group, assembled in Yokohama on Jan. 8 to celebrate the consignment.

“Niigata shipments account for a third of the entire Japanese rice exports,” said Agriculture Minister Takamori Yoshikawa at the ceremony. “I hope rice shipments from Niigata to China will increase.”

This shipment is significant because China decided last November to lift its seven-year import ban on rice from Niigata prefecture, which was imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

The Chinese move came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his groundbreaking visit Beijing in October 2018.

Relations between Asia’s two biggest economies have rapidly warmed up, as tensions between China and the United States have spilled over from the trade war into a number of other strategic areas.

According to the ZEN-NOH, the rice from this pilot shipment will be distributed to a range of wealthy customer channels with a bag containing 2 kilograms to determine the most suitable distribution channels for rice in China.

China imposed bans on food imports from Fukushima and nine neighboring prefectures, including Niigata, in response to the meltdown at the Fukushima No.1 power station in Fukushima Prefecture in 2011. The plant is managed by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

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