Semi-dried persimmons up for export 1st time since 2011(「あんぽ柿」震災後初輸出)

Farmer Kazuo Hikichi, looking at one of his persimmon trees in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, is hopeful about the planned export of anpogaki semi-dried fruit.(あんぽ柿の輸出に期待を寄せる曳地さん)

 The Fukushima prefectural government and the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) Group are set to export anpogaki semi-dried persimmons as early as this winter for the first time since the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
 Thailand is seen as the first destination for resuming exports of anpogaki, a specialty of the northern part of Fukushima Prefecture. The prefectural government is making arrangements with Thai authorities to decide the specific timing and quantity of the exports. It aims to use exports to Thailand to build momentum for expanding overseas sales channels for the processed persimmons, as the Southeast Asian country is importing an increasing amount of agricultural products from Fukushima Prefecture.


 In 2015, the Thai government removed in principle all restrictions on importing agricultural and marine food and products from Japan, including those from Fukushima Prefecture. In a country whose per capita consumption of fruit is about double that of Japan, peaches, pears and apples are particularly popular among Fukushima produce. This is partly because products from Japan have become more popular as an increasing number of Thais travel to Japan.
 The prefectural government is considering holding a tasting and sales event in Bangkok, while also launching promotional activities in collaboration with a local agent.


 Anpogaki, said to have originated in the Yanagawa district of Date city in the northern part of the prefecture, have a jelly-like consistency because they contain more water than regular dried persimmons. The semi-dried products boast vivid orange -- rather than dark -- flesh, thanks to being fumigated with sulfur before being dried. Anpogaki are a local winter delicacy as they are processed and shipped from November to February.


 However, the loss of water while drying reduces the fruit's weight, thus making it easier for anpogaki's concentration of radioactive cesium to exceed 100 becquerels per kilogram, the Japanese government-set maximum for food. When the prefectural government asked farmers mainly in Date and surrounding areas to refrain from processing persimmons in response to the nuclear accident, the move caused a nosedive in the shipping amount of anpogaki by limiting the production areas to other parts of the prefecture.


 A conference for reviving anpogaki, which consists of the central and prefectural governments, municipalities and JA, among other entities, chose in fiscal 2013 pilot districts whose persimmons were found to contain lower amounts of cesium. Under the measure, these pilot districts resumed processing persimmons and shipped their anpogaki while screening all their finished products. The production amount of anpogaki increased year-on-year as more and more districts were designated under the pilot program. In fiscal 2018, the amount of anpogaki shipped through the prefectural headquarters of JA Zen-Noh, the business and marketing arm of JA, totaled 930 tons, about 75 percent of the predisaster level.


 Kazuo Hikichi, 61, an anpogaki producer in the Yanagawa district of Date, was delighted by the plan to export the product. "It's wonderful," he said. "It's a dream that my persimmons may be sold overseas."
 The farmer hopes that the specialty's sales will be further expanded in the future. "As a dried product, anpogaki can last longer than regular fruits," he said. "We don't have to hold such delicious items back from the rest of the world."

( Translated by The Japan News )


 【 2019年5月17日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】