Japan’s consumer co-operatives respond to earthquake

Co-operatives in Japan have set up a task force to help those affected by the country's earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 130km off the east coast Oshika Peninsula on March 11th, which caused tsunami waves of up to 10 metres that struck Japan minutes later.

Large scale damage has been seen up to 10km inland, which includes the facilities of consumer co-operatives.

The Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union has set up a task force to monitor the situations with co-operatives and to help with any restoration effort.

Miyagi Co-op in Sendai reports that 35 of their 48 stores are closed, which is mainly due to no electricity in the city and damage to its distribution centres. The stores that are open are processing sales manually with sales taking place outside the branches due to structural safety fears.

Iwate Co-op has one store out of 11 that is damaged. Electricity is also preventing the other stores from opening at night.

The task force has also reported that it has been having communication difficulties with Co-op Fukushima, which operates in the region of the unstable nuclear plants.

The JCCU is also supporting those affected by the disaster by supplying emergency goods such as 29,000 bottles (500ml) of tea, 29,000 cup noodles, 27,000 bags of cookies, bread with longer expiry date, some quantities of banana, fruit juice, towels and some blankets and 25,000 pocket heaters.

Along with Co-op Kobe, the JCCU has also dispatched five volunteer staff to Miyagi Co-op to help with restoration efforts, including coordinating clearance of damaged stores; ensuring members and staff are safe and assessing the damage to co-operative facilities.

Amano Haruyoshi, JCCU’s International Department Manager, said: “In Tokyo metropolitan area, we had fearful quakes. But the damage was not very serious considering the quake. However, in north-east area of Japan, the damage is serious.

“Consumer co-ops got substantial damages at their business facilities. The other co-operatives may also have got severe damages in their facilities in the north-east area.”

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