China plans to raise farmers' income and improve grain production capacity this year through a number of initiatives to improve its food security, the top legislature was told Saturday.
Ma Kai, minister in Charge of the State Development and Reform Commission, made the remarks in his report to the legislature on the implementation of the 2003 Plan for National Economic and Social Development and on the 2004 Draft Plan for National Economic and Social Development.
China will continue carrying out strategic restructuring of agriculture and the rural economy and implementing a plan to arrange where crops are grown, so as to use cropland to the best geographical advantage, said the minister.
"We will strengthen the emergency animal epidemic prevention system, improve the system of quality standards and the system for inspecting and testing farm products, and implement the Action Plan for Pollution-Free Food."
The minister said China will promote the adjustment and transformation of township and village enterprises, selectively develop small towns, and strengthen intra-county economies.
Vocational training will be offered to rural laborers, and better information will be provided to guide the movement of surplus rural labor in an orderly way, he said.
"The problem of withholding or delaying payment of the wages of migrant rural workers in cities must be solved, and a mechanism to ensure the timely payment of such wages will be established and improved."
He said that pay for farmers will be included in the budgets for government-financed rural construction projects to ensure they are properly paid.
China will deepen the reform of rural taxes and administrative charges, reduce the rates for agricultural taxes and eliminate taxes on all special agricultural products except tobacco to effectively ease the burden on farmers, he said.
The government will continue to give people work in place of relief subsidies as part of the effort to improve the mechanism for alleviating rural poverty through development, said the minister.
He added that emergency disaster relief work must be done well, promising proper arrangements will be made for the work and daily lives of needy rural households.
He went on to say the acreage sown to grain must be expanded, and the country will make efforts to increase the yield per unit area and ensure that grain output totals 455 billion kilograms this year.
China will practice the most stringent possible system for protecting farmland, and will reform the way land is expropriated and the mechanism of compensating for its expropriation, he said.
"The transformation of farmland to non-agricultural purposes will be planned and managed strictly".
China will launch a project to industrialize production of high-quality grains, and establish a group of state production centers concentrated in major grain producing areas to produce high-quality and special grain crops, said the minister.
He said investment will be increased to develop improved crop strains, promote wider application of advanced agricultural techniques, prevent and control plant diseases and pests, improve irrigated areas, develop dry farming and water-saving irrigation, turn hillsides into terraced fields and build silt trappers.
"Improvement of low- and medium-yield farmland will be accelerated," he said.
Moreover, Ma said, major grain consumption areas will also be obligated to protect their primary farmland to maintain necessary grain production capacity and ensure adequate local grain reserves.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2004)