President Hu Jintao has said the increase of farmers' income and the development of agriculture are essential for the sustainable and coordinated development of the national economy and social stability.
The president urged Communist Party committees and governments at all levels to recognize the importance and the urgency of solving these issues.
Hu, also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), made the calls during his December 12 to 17 inspection tour in Shandong and Henan provinces, two of the country's major grain-producing areas.
The tour involved the rural areas of the cities of Liaocheng and Heze in Shandong, east China, and rural areas of Shangqiu and Kaifeng cities in Henan, central China.
The president visited rural families affected by floods earlier this year, and asked about their difficulties.
He told local governments to provide enough food and clothes and adequate shelter to flood victims, and to help with rehabilitation projects and preparations for spring planting.
The president also talked with farmers and local officials on ways to raise their income, saying improved standards of rural living were a priority in agricultural and rural work for the Party and governments at all levels.
Hu said efforts were needed to promote strategic restructuring of agriculture and the rural economy, and facilitate the industrialization of farming, boost investment in agriculture and rural development, continue the tax reform in rural areas, and move to raise farming income, especially among grain growers.
Greater efforts should be made to help surplus rural laborers find jobs in cities, while removing discriminatory regulations and unreasonable charges for migrant workers, Hu said.
He went on to call for nationwide investigations of the rampant practice of delaying payments of hard-earned wages to migrant workers, saying workers should be paid for all their work in the past year before the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday next month.
Companies deliberately delaying payment or cutting wages, and those responsible, should be punished according to law, while additional efforts were needed to improve laws and regulations to ensure the problem would no longer occur, said the president.
Hu said China should formulate the most stringent system in the world to protect farmland from being depleted for excessive industrial development, and illegal use of farmland for non-agricultural development should be halted.
He also reiterated the need to increase government investment in agriculture and support for major grain-producing areas, encourage the use of agricultural technology and the application of agriculture-related techniques, reduce farming costs, and deepen the reform of the grain distribution system.
(Xinhua News Agency December 17, 2003)