Farmers in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture have watched prices offered by wholesalers for their produce shrink like a frightened turtle since the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis began. In the case of Tomato Land Iwaki, located in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, prices offered for their hydroponically grown tomatoes have dropped by more than half.
Tomato Land Iwaki's greenhouses are only 35 kilometers (21.75 miles) from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant. Because the tomatoes are grown in covered greenhouses instead of in the open air, however, in-house and independent testing hasn't detected any rise in radiation levels in the produce.
The test results aren't swaying wholesale buyers, however, who see the “grown in Fukushima” label as the supermarket equivalent of box office poison. What to do?
It seems the Japanese public has bypassed the middle man to come to the rescue of farms like Tomato Land Iwaki. Since the plight of Fukushima's farmers' began to be the subject of TV news reports, direct online orders placed at the company website have steadily risen – they now account for 30 percent of the company's sales AND the buyers are paying full price.
“Thanks to the support of consumers, we are managing to scrape by. We are thankful,” said the senior managing director of Tomato Land Iwaki.
The PR battle has only begun, however. “We also want supermarkets and retailers, who are our main customers, to sell our products at appropriate prices. It is very tough on us when products are sold cheaply just for having the label 'grown in Fukushima.'" (via Mainichi Daily News, main image via The National)