The British government has started the process to lift import restrictions on farm products from Japan, a measure imposed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, potentially clearing the hurdles for such imports as early as next spring, the farm ministry said Friday.

In its assessment of the possible health risks from Japanese food imports, Britain has concluded that removing the import restrictions would not affect consumers in the country.

As part of the domestic procedure, Britain will solicit public comments on the policy change by February before making a formal decision, said the Japanese ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

A total of 23 farm products such as mushrooms, bamboo shoots and bonito from Fukushima and eight other prefectures are currently subject to the import restrictions, requiring proof of having passed a check for radioactive materials when these products are shipped into Britain.

The eight prefectures are Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Gunma, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka.

If the restrictions are lifted, the certificates of origin now required for these farm products harvested or processed in Japanese prefectures other than the nine will also become unnecessary for exporting to Britain.

According to the farm ministry, the export value of Japanese farm products to Britain amounted to 4.5 billion yen ($39.7 million) in 2010. But it fell to 3.7 billion yen in 2012 following the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March the previous year.

Japanese farm exports to Britain recovered to 5.6 billion yen in 2020.

Japan plans to continue urging the removal of import restrictions by the 13 countries and regions such as China and South Korea that maintain them due to safety concerns.

The United States lifted its import restrictions on Japanese farm products in September, while the European Union eased part of its restrictions in October.