Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu has called for efforts to help raise the income of the country's several hundred million farmers.
Addressing a national conference on agriculture held on Friday and Saturday, the vice premier said the income growth of Chinese farmers slowed down during the first six months of this year.
He said it is difficult for farmers to increase their income in the coming months due to structural constraints, the after effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and natural disasters.
There are still opportunities for farmers to increase their income as the central government has been increasing investment in agriculture and rural areas, the national economy has maintained its development momentum, and the rural economy is still growing, said the vice premier.
Uncertainty has been growing about farmers' incomes as they are more sensitive to domestic and overseas markets for farm products and they have diversified sources of income.
He called on local governments to continue agricultural restructuring to raise returns, promote industrialization of farming, improve market structure to help farmers sell their products, and create more jobs in urban and rural areas for farmers.
Slow income growth in rural areas has been a problem for the Chinese government in the past several years, and many young farmers have to look for jobs in urban areas to make ends meet.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2003)