Heavy snow leads to food price spikes

News & Views - February 20th, 2014
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Major highways in eastern Japan where traffic stood at a standstill for days due to heavy snowfall began to be cleared on Tuesday night while other routes remain buried deep in snow and thousands of households are isolated.

Thoroughfares to some snow-locked settlements in Tochigi, Gunma and Nagano prefectures have been cleared. Still, more than 5,600 households in eight prefectures including Tokyo, Shizuoka Prefecture and parts of the Kanto-Koshin and Tohoku areas were still isolated due to snow as of 8 am on Wednesday, according to figures compiled by the Mainichi Shimbun.

Figures as of 6 pm on Monday showed that 13,265 homes in eight prefectures had lost their water supply, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Around 1,693 homes in Saitama, Tochigi, Gunma and Yamanashi prefectures were without power as of 9 am of Tuesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co said.

The snow-clogged roads led to food shortages in Kanto and other regions, sending prices of vegetables soaring.

Prices of vegetables such as leeks, spinach and carrots have risen by 20 to 40 percent, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

“The deep snow, especially in Gunma and Saitama prefectures, has disrupted shipments of lettuce, cabbage and cucumbers from those areas,” said a spokesman for the Maruetsu Inc supermarket chain.

Deliveries of bread, tofu and natto (fermented soybeans) from Yamanashi, Gunma and Tochigi were also delayed due to the shutdown of many production factories and snow-clogged roads, according to the spokesman.

Seven & I Holdings Co reportedly sent out two helicopters Monday to deliver 3,200 loaves of bread to its stores, including an Ito-Yokado store and several Seven-Eleven outlets in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Although the Chuo Expressway reopened, “the aftereffects will continue, and there should be continuous rises in the prices of vegetables and fruit for a while.”

“We are waiting for transportation conditions to recover,” a Maruetsu spokesman said.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: pokoroto/Flickr