Photo/IllutrationRice is harvested in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in October. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The European Union on Dec. 1 eased import restrictions on farm and marine products from Japan that it tightened in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

After the catastrophe, 54 countries and regions imposed restrictions on imports of farm produce and seafood from Japan. Twenty-five countries have already lifted all restrictions.

The government plans to step up efforts to call on other countries to ease regulations.

The EU decision means that exporters of rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture and some seafood and related products from there and neighboring areas will not be required to present certificates to show that the items have been tested for radioactivity.

With regard to rice from Japan, the final barrier to exports to the EU has now been lifted.

The easing of controls follows Saudi Arabia’s decision in November to lift all restrictions of imports of foodstuffs from areas affected by the nuclear disaster.

The United States has also moved to ease restrictions for some seafood and related products from Fukushima Prefecture.

According to Fukushima prefectural authorities, exports of locally grown farm and marine products plunged to 2 tons in fiscal 2012 from 153 tons in fiscal 2010.

But imports have gradually bounced back and are now approaching pre-disaster levels.

Among countries that still maintain restrictions are nine big importers of Japanese agricultural and marine products, such as Hong Kong, the United States, Taiwan, China and South Korea.

They continue to ban imports of foodstuff from Fukushima Prefecture and surrounding areas.

For example, China bans imports of commodities from Fukushima and nine other prefectures.

South Korea has maintained a ban on imports of fisheries products from Fukushima and seven other prefectures, which has dealt a blow to sea squirt farmers.

Before the Fukushima disaster, 70 to 80 percent of farmed sea squirt was exported.