Fukushima's specialty "ampo-gaki" half-dried persimmons shipped nationwide

A ceremony was held in Date city on Dec. 5 to celebrate the start of shipments across Japan of the "ampo-gaki" brand of semi-dried persimmons, a specialty in the northern part of Fukushima Prefecture. The ceremony, attended by some 200 people, took place at a fruit-sorting facility of the Date branch of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) group. The participants had a firsthand look at a test for the detection of radioactive substances and tried out the traditional fruit of the season to confirm its quality. They then saw off the first truckload of some 200 kilograms of ampo-gaki shipped to Tokyo and other parts of the Kanto region. Ampo-gaki is made by smoking and half-drying the fruit. But farmers in the region had imposed a voluntary ban on processing work for three years until last year in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Last year, a group comprising farmers and representatives of the municipalities concerned as well as central and prefectural government officials chose model areas for resuming ampo-gaki production. Such areas were expanded this year and the number of testing devices was increased from 12 to 26 in an effort to restore the specialty fruit. JA Date Mirai has already put ampo-gaki on display at its farm stands while a local fruit farm cooperative union is scheduled to start selling the fruit in mid-December. (Translated by Kyodo News)