Starting this year, a special fund for a national technology-driven agricultural project will be increased to 100 million yuan (US$12 million) each year from the present 39 million yuan (US$4.7 million).
The investment is expected to help develop advanced farming skills to benefit the country's approximate 800 million farmers for agricultural production, Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua said at a conference on Friday in Beijing.
The agricultural project, entitled the Spark Program, was approved by the central government in 1986 to boost the rural economy and further increase farmers' incomes through new technology.
Agricultural development is confronted with such issues as staggering productivity, inadequate quality of farm produce and farmers' low incomes.
Xu called on scientific departments to race against time to do their part in solving these issues, as agricultural sectors may face fierce competition after China joins the World Trade Organization.
The program has been implemented in 85 percent of China's counties during the past 15 years. More than 60 million farmers have mastered specialist skills, ranging from crop growing to farm produce processing and commercialization. These skills have given an impetus to fattening farmers' wallets, sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology said.
A cited example is Xinzheng, in Central China's Henan Province, where the rural per capita income last year reached 2,868 yuan (US$346), compared to 1,471 yuan (US$177) in 1995, China Daily learned from Liu Yuelou, director of Xinzheng Science and Technology Department, thanks to the implementation of the Spark Program.
During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), scientists will spread 5,000 new agricultural techniques to another 30 million farmers, according to the ministry's long-term science development plan.
Jiang Chunyun, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said the government should continue to expand the Spark Program to equip farmers with more farming and marketing skills.
"Under today's market economy, farmers not only care about grain outputs, but also how to sell agricultural products and earn more money," said Jiang.
(China Daily 09/29/2001)