China to commit record amount to beefing up agriculture 03-07-2004 14:55

The Chinese government is expected to spend a record 150 billion yuan (18 billion US dollars) on a move to fire the zeal of farmers for grain production and ensure the country's food security this year.

That means an average of 166 yuan per person among the 900 million rural people, according to an official in charge of the office of Financial and Economic Leading Group of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

The problems of agriculture, farmers and rural economy claim the top priority in the state-of-the-nation address by Premier Wen Jiabao to the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature of China, on Friday.

The record amount of investment in agriculture represents a shot in the arm of the declining grain production and the rural economy, said former Vice Minister of Agriculture Wan Baorui.

Wan quoted the figures of the National Bureau of Statistics as saying that the per capita average disposable income of rural residents was only 1,000 yuan (121 US dollars) and their per capita net income increased at an annual rate of only 4 percent in 1997-2003, barely half that of urban residents, with the urban-rural gap enlarging from 2.47:1 to 3.24:1.

Zhang Peiyang, a farmer NPC Deputy from the eastern province of Anhui, said many farmers in remote villages are too poor to pay their medical bills and children had to stay at home doing farm work after finishing primary school.

Most grain growers in China have enough to eat but little money to spend, Zhang said.

The government's move to boost the rural economy also has the support from wealthy entrepreneurs like Li Guoqiang, another NPC Deputy from prosperous Guangdong Province, who live in a modern high-rise equipped with sound systems, computers, digital video-cameras and other electronic gadgets and goes to work by car.

Increasing the income of the country's 900 million rural people is of great importance to China, as it has a great bearing on the country's grain security, rural development and national stability, Li said.

In his government work report, Premier Wen promised to cut agricultural tax by one percentage point every year from now on until it is totally eliminated within five years. That means a total of 7 billion yuan will be taken off the burdens of peasants.

The waiver of taxes on rural specialty products can reduce farmers'burdens by another 4.8 billion yuan. In addition, the direct subsidies to farmers will not be less than 10 billion yuan.

Editor:Zhang  Source:Xinhua News Agency

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