Farm ministry asks households not to open suspicious packages of seeds sent from abroad

TOKYO, Aug. 4 – The Plant Protection Station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been alerting the public on suspicious packages of seeds sent from abroad, saying it has been receiving inquiries from people across the nation who said such packages were delivered to them although they have not made any orders.

“If you receive seeds unexpectedly, you must not open the packages nor plant the seeds on fields, gardens or planters. Please consult authorities,” said an official of the plant quarantine station.

According to the agriculture ministry, a number of cases were reported nationwide since June in which small plastic bags containing dozens of seeds are delivered to individuals’ houses by air mail that does not include the sender’s information. Similar incidents are also reported in other countries such as the United States and Britain.

The ministry said the plastic bags containing the seeds are sent in envelopes or boxes with a label marked as coming from the Chinese city of Shenzhen in the province of Guangdong.

The seeds varied in size from those with a diameter of about 0.5 millimeters to those about the size of pickled ume plum seeds. None of them had a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country attached to them.

It is highly likely the packages were sent without going through plant quarantine, since they were labeled as containing jewelry or toys. One of the packages contained earrings as well as seeds.

The National Consumer Affairs Center said the packages did not include a bill and none of the recipients have been asked to make any payments.

It is the first time such cases of seeds being randomly sent from overseas to a large number of individuals occurred, according to the farm ministry. “We have absolutely no idea for what purpose they are being sent,” said an official of the ministry’s plant protection division.

Since the seeds could be infected with pests and could spread plant diseases not yet detected in Japan, the ministry is asking people to consult nearby plant quarantine stations if they received such packages.

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