Fukushima's specialty persimmons shipped to UAE, 1st export since disaster

Farmers in Fukushima Prefecture, assisted by the prefectural government, exported 10 kilograms of "ampo-gaki" half-dried persimmons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a trial basis, marking the first overseas shipment of the fruit from the northern part of the prefecture since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Officials involved in the deal – from the prefectural government, Fukushima Prefectural Headquarters of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) and JA Fukushima Mirai – visited government institutions and distributors in Dubai from Jan. 7 to 9, making a pitch for the safety and quality of the fruit in an effort to explore the possibility of a full-fledged export push. Dried fruit is a favorite in the UAE, a wealthy Middle East emirate, according to the Fukushima government. Using the country as a stepping stone, the prefecture and farmers are seeking to tap other markets in the region. Officials of the prefecture and the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) group introduced the airlifted ampo-gaki to the UAE parties concerned after confirming product quality and taste. "We would like to boost awareness of ampo-gaki and promote an expansion in exports," said an official of the prefecture's farm produce distribution section. The UAE has sought the attachment of a certificate showing the outcome of a radiation test on the fruit ahead of its shipment. According to the Zen-Noh Fukushima headquarters, ampo-gaki shipped at home via the local agricultural group totaled 1,231 tons in fiscal 2010 through March 2011, but shipments plummeted following the nuclear disaster. They recovered to 930 tons in fiscal 2018. The prefecture and the JA group have judged it necessary to develop new markets to further increase shipments. The prefecture and farmers are preparing to ship several hundred kilograms of ampo-gaki to Thailand this winter. As part of a full export drive, they plan to carry out a marketing campaign there after making the shipment, including tasting sessions at department stores and elsewhere, to bolster sales of the fruit. (Translated by Kyodo News)