Decision on Japanese food imports to be made after hearings: Cabinet

The government will not make any decision about the existing ban on food and agricultural produce from radiation-affected prefectures in Japan until after a series of public hearings on the issue have been completed, the Cabinet said Saturday.

In a statement, the Cabinet said the public hearings, which kicked off Saturday, will review border control measures, how other countries are dealing with such food imports, and scientific evidence on the safety of the products.

The government will make an overall assessment after the public hearings, the Executive Yuan said.

It said the relevant agencies are mulling a plan to lift the ban in two-phases.

In the first phase, the ban on products from the Fukushima area will be retained, while imports from Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures will be allowed on condition of batch-by-batch inspection, the Cabinet said.

High-risk products from certain areas should also be accompanied by certificates of radiation inspection and certificates of origin, the Cabinet said.

It advised the public to stay rational in expressing their opinions and urged elected public representatives not to disrupt the public hearings.

The Cabinet statement was issued after a melee broke out at a public hearing in Tainan on Saturday, when Tsai Yu-hui(蔡育輝), a caucus whip of the opposition Kuomintang in the Tainan City Council, and City councilor Lu Kun-fu (盧崑福) led about two dozen protesters into the venue and demanded that the public hearing be suspended.

The protesters said the public hearings had been announced hastily and were a gross violation of regulations, and they questioned why the government would want to import risky food from Japan.

A total of 10 public hearings are scheduled from Nov. 12-14 throughout Taiwan, as part of a government move widely seen as paving the way for its impending lifting of a five-year ban on Japanese produce from the prefectures affected by radiation following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba have been suspended in Taiwan since March 25, 2011 because of fears of radioactive contamination in those areas from a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a massive earthquake and tsunami there on March 11, 2011.

Since May 15, 2015, importers of Japanese food products have been required to present certificates to prove that their imports did not originate from any of the five prefectures.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May, various Japanese groups reportedly have been asking Taiwan to lift the ban. Tsai’s administration has indicated that it is keen to build stronger ties with Japan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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