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Japan's N-plant farmers demand aid

Japanese farmers have taken to the streets in Tokyo demanding compensation for radiation contamination to their crops and livestock from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Around 200 of them, mostly from north-eastern Japan, wore green bandanas, held aloft cabbages they said they could not sell and carried signs saying "Stop nuclear energy" outside the headquarters of plant operator Tepco.

"My patience has run out. The nuclear crisis is totally destroying our farming business," said 72-year-old Katsuo Okazaki, who grows peaches and apples.

Radiation leaking from the plant - about 140 miles north of Tokyo - has been found in milk, water and vegetables such as spinach from the surrounding area.

The government has banned the sale of raw milk from some towns near the plant, as well as spinach, cabbage, broccoli and several other leafy vegetables from throughout Fukushima prefecture, though most restrictions in nearby prefectures have been lifted.

But even once restrictions are removed and produce is deemed safe, farmers throughout the north-east fear consumers will shun their products.

The company says it will take six to nine months to bring the plant into cold shutdown, a crucial step for allowing the roughly 80,000 people evacuated from a 12-mile radius to return home.

Farmers among the evacuees also are concerned about the estimated 3,000 cows, 130,000 pigs and 680,000 chickens they had to leave behind to fend for themselves. Some have died already, and many are weak and dying.

"I'm here in protest, and to get an apology," said Masaki Yoshizawa, who had 300 head of high-grade "wagyu" cattle on a ranch nine miles from the plant.

Tepco will start initial compensation payments of 1 million yen (£4,800) per household, trade minister Banri Kaieda said.

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