Photo/IllutrationShelves of a convenience store in Sapporo were cleared out on the morning of Sept. 7 by residents and tourists fearing a food shortage from the earthquake. (Fumiko Yoshigaki)

The Sept. 6 powerful earthquake has damaged not only Hokkaido’s well-known dairy and farming industries, but it could also cripple production in the high-tech manufacturing sector, including vehicles and smartphones.

The northern main island is a popular tourist destination because of its natural beauty and vast open spaces. The low-priced land also makes Hokkaido an ideal home for various parts factories, in addition to large-scale dairy and food farming.

Toyota Motor Hokkaido Inc., a subsidiary of auto giant Toyota Motor Corp., produces transmissions and parts for hybrid cars in Tomakomai, south of Sapporo.

The Tomakomai plant, in fact, is the center of Toyota’s network that supplies parts to car-assembly factories in the Tohoku, Tokai and Kyushu regions of Japan, as well as overseas.

The company suspended operations at the plant on Sept. 6 because the power remained cut and it was unable to conduct safety evaluations of the factory buildings.

It did not immediately know when the plant could be restarted.

Other Toyota factories, including one in Aichi Prefecture, produce the same parts, but if the suspension in Hokkaido is prolonged, it could eventually affect the entire Toyota Motor group, company officials said.

Other Toyota-affiliated companies based in Hokkaido are also reeling from the effects of the Sept. 6 earthquake.

Aisin Seiki Co. subsidiary Aisin Hokkaido Co., also based in Tomakomai, produces aluminum parts for transmissions and engines. It was forced to stop operations to evaluate the quake damage.

Denso Hokkaido Corp., a Chitose-based subsidiary of Denso Corp. of the Toyota Group, produces semiconductor sensors for automobiles. The plant was shut down on both Sept. 6 and Sept. 7.

Electronics giant Kyocera Corp. has suspended operations at one of its plants in Kitami, in northeastern Hokkaido, that produces electronic components for smartphones and optical communication devices. It also manufactures all of the company’s mobile phones for the domestic market.

If the Kitami plant remains out of service for a long time, the impact will be immense, officials said.

The Muroran Works in Muroran, west of Tomakomai, is one of the steel plants of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp. It halted its production lines immediately after the earthquake to conduct safety checks.

In-house power generation enabled some production lines to restart, but the factory did not know when full operations would resume.

The steel plant produces and ships materials to automakers and other manufacturers around Japan.

“We cannot grasp the full extent of damages to the ports and roads, so we cannot even guess how much of our scheduled shipments will be affected,” a public relations officials of the company said.

Adjacent to the Muroran Works, a small fire broke out around 4 a.m., about an hour after the earthquake hit, at a plant of Mitsubishi Steel Muroran Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Steel Mfg. Co.

The loss of power crippled the cooling system for a machine that produces specialized steel products. Lubricating oil on the bearings of the machine caught fire after they overheated.

The fire was put out at 10:30 a.m., and no injuries were reported. However, the plant remained closed because of the power outage.

Japan’s paper business was also affected by the earthquake in Hokkaido, a production center in the industry.

Nippon Paper Industries Co.’s Yufutsu mill in Tomakomai and its Shiraoi mill in Shiraoi are both located close to the epicenter. They halted operation immediately after the earthquake.

Oji Paper Co. also stopped production at its Tomakomai plant. The company said it has enough stocks of finished products to cover about a week of shipments.

Quake damage was also reported in the vegetable and dairy industries of Hokkaido, which support the diet of the entire nation.

Power was severed at Meiji Co.’s seven factories for cheese, butter and milk in Hokkaido, forcing the company to stop accepting tons of raw milk from farmers on Sept. 6.

According to the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives, a large amount of raw milk collected on Sept. 6 was taken to Yotsuba Milk Products Co.’s two plants that were running on in-house generated power.

A dedicated ship that transports raw milk from Hokkaido to Ibaraki Prefecture left the island as scheduled on Sept. 6.

Ken Saito, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said at a Sept. 6 ministerial meeting that the blackout has generated great losses in the food-production industry.

“There are cases in which farms could not milk their cows, and farmers were forced to dispose of raw milk that could not be refrigerated,” he said. “It also caused losses to fisheries because freezing facilities were crippled.”

In addition, production of potato chips and other snacks at Calbee Inc.’s factories in Chitose and Obihiro were suspended on Sept. 6.