A project aimed at encouraging school pupils to drink more milk to improve their health was officially launched Wednesday.
The Milk for Students project is being run by the ministries of agriculture, education and health, as well as by other ministries, bureaux and committees.
Under the scheme, schools will sign agreements with producers to ensure a daily supply of dairy products such as milk and yogurt.
Pupils who take part in the project voluntarily will be able to buy such products at prices lower than in the shops.
Chinese people, whose staple food is rice and wheat, consume few dairy products.
In 1997, people in developed countries, such as Britain and France, each consumed 258 to 431 kilograms of dairy products. In some Asian countries, such as Japan and India, the figure is 36 to 90 kilograms, while in China the figure drops to as low as 5 kilograms per capita.
Only 20 percent of primary and middle school students in urban areas in China and 2 percent in rural areas include milk in their daily diet.
According to statistics, the average height and weight of Chinese youngsters is lower than that of their Japanese counterparts.
Malnutrition is one of the reasons behind this fact and drinking more milk will improve conditions, according to Zhang Baowen, vice-minister of agriculture.
The country hopes the continued implementation of the project will build up youngsters' health within a few years.
In 1999, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a pilot milk project in the municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenyang.
The project launched Wednesday is an extension of this. Milk will firstly be delivered to provincial capitals and comparatively well-off cities next year and then to smaller cities and towns in future.
The project is also expected to help improve China's ongoing agricultural restructuring and increase farmers' incomes.
In addition, China has also been urging relevant authorities to keep an eye on any trends that could damage students' health and rights.
Scheme administrators have been told not to try to earn profits from the project, said officials.
(China Daily 11/16/2000)