Japan: cesium and uranium rice. Staple food alarm: next year’s crop could also be contaminated. Serious repercussions on international markets

Japan: cesium and uranium rice. Staple food alarm: next year’s crop could also be contaminated. Serious repercussions on international markets

After spinach and other leafy vegetables, green tea, seaweed, fish, water, milk, the 1,500 contaminated cows sold across the country, rice is now shaking Japan.

Not only that, in fact, next year’s harvest could be compromised: this year’s crop could also be completely unusable because it is contaminated with cesium and uranium. And if we consider that rice is the staple of the Japanese diet, that more than eight million tons are produced per year, that all the rice consumed comes from domestic crops and that part of the harvest is destined for export. , it is understandable why the tension, after the announcement of the start of sweeping analyzes in 18 prefectures, is skyrocketing.

Production is concentrated in the north of the country, where the 18 prefectures that have decided to start testing are located and which, alone, produce on average 40 percent of the total rice.

Leading the national harvest is the north of the island of Hokkaido, quite far from Honshu, the island of the accident; in the latter, however, there are the second and third production areas, namely Niigata and Akita, followed by Fukushima which, before the accident, produced almost 400 thousand tons of rice a year.

The analyzes will now have to say whether the rice that is expected to be harvested in the coming weeks has been exposed to radioactive water and whether as a result it contains more than 500 becquerels of cesium and 100 of uranium per kilo, according to the safety limits set by the government.

As the Minister of Health recalled, in fact, taking 500 bequerels continuously for a year means exposing your body to 5 millisieverts, a value still considered safe based on the values ​​indicated by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, but not to be exceeded. . In the casp the values ​​exceed 500 bequerels, the harvest will be lost; if the radiation is lower, the tests will be repeated after harvest.

One of the first prefectures to conduct the tests will be that of Chiba, now close to the harvest season. “We have decided to carry out constant analyzes over the next two years in over 180 sites,” said Shigetoshi Abe, an official of the local government, stressing that this is an autonomous initiative taken in reaction to the slowness of the central government, urged for almost two months ago to kick off testing and so far remained inert.

According to many observers, among other things, the contamination of cattle discovered a few weeks ago is largely due to the fact that, in the absence of precise controls and regulations, many farmers have fed the animals hay which also contains rice grass. cesium.

But Tokyo is not just being blamed for delays. Also according to Abe, the safety limit or at least the maximum attention limit should be moved to 200 bequerel, considering the chronic exposure that could derive from the contamination of such an important food; not surprisingly, the prefecture will repeat the analyzes every time it finds values ​​greater than 200 bequerel of cesium.

Furthermore, not only Japanese growers and consumers are eagerly awaiting the results. Japan exports almost 2 thousand tons of rice every year, especially to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, and the signs are far from reassuring, because the alert of the countries of the area on Japanese products is very high, and in recent months they are already restrictive measures have been taken on several occasions.

At the moment, domestic consumption has decreased and, consequently, stocks have increased by 2.5 per cent , reaching 3.2 million tons, a quantity usually consumed in five months; if stocks were to increase further and lie unsold in warehouses, perhaps even due to unfounded fears, the national and international rice market could be severely affected, with repercussions throughout Asia.

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