Two Years After Fukushima, Japanese Tomato Growers Achieve Recovery

It’s been two years now since a series of powerful earthquakes struck northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami that destroyed thousands of lives in the Tohoku area. The tsunami also caused severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Radioactive substances leaked and spread across Japan and around the world. Recently, Biobest received a heartwarming message from Mr. Yoneda, a manager of a tomato greenhouse in the Fukushima area. Learning how going about our “ordinary” business made a real contribution to rebuilding life after the earthquake, made us eager to learn more about the story behind this letter and to share it with our readers.

“Two years ago” says Mr. Yoneda in his message “the greenhouse suffered heavy damage from the great earth quakes. However, the employees of the greenhouse are again growing the tomato. Without your bumblebees, Onahama greenhouse cannot produce such beautiful tomatoes. Your bumblebees are contributing to the reconstruction of Kagome Onahama greenhouse which is the largest greenhouse in Japan. I am very proud of your staff who produce such high quality bumblebees.”

Kagome Onahama Tomato Greenhouse,  a major customer of Tokai Trading Co Ltd. was damaged by the earthquake. This 10.5 ha greenhouse cultivates tomato plants year round, using bumblebees (Bombus Ignitus) from Biobest Belgium.
Takayuki NASUNO, President of Onahama Greenhouses: “Fortunately, none of Kagome Onahama’s employees were injured in the earthquake, though the greenhouse suffered a shattered glass ceiling and power cuts. Because environmental conditions in the greenhouse were computer-controlled, the loss of electricity killed nearly all the tomato plants, despite attempts at intervention. Luckily, the tomato fruits were already ripe and edible.”

When the full extent of the destruction became clear, the president of the Kagome Onahama Tomato Greenhouse decided to open his doors to victims of the earthquake. The Fukushima area infrastructure was so badly damaged that many people had no access to fresh water. However, victims were invited via Twitter to help themselves to the greenhouse’s salvaged tomato fruits – and more than a hundred people were able to take advantage of this offer of help.

Thankfully, the greenhouse was able to put its tomatoes to good use helping those in need – because in the wake of the disaster, selling them would have been impossible. Between the destruction of roads and infrastructure and rumours of radioactive pollen, the entire crop would have gone to waste. And yet, despite the devastation, the employees of Onahama greenhouses never gave up; they restored the greenhouse as quickly as possible, repairing the broken glass and water flow systems and renewing tomato cultivation and harvest again.

During the reconstruction, Biobest Belgium and Tokai Trading Co continued to supply the greenhouse with bumblebees for pollination. Now with the harvest of fresh tomatoes, local people do feel they’re moving on to pick up with their lives again.

Today, tomato production at Onahama Greenhouse is back to the same level as before the disaster – and Biobest Belgium and Tokai Trading Co are still helping, through their bumblebees. We are proud that our products helped in rebuilding the horticultural activities in this region and that production is now back on track”.

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