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Exports of Agricultural Products Hit a Record High
Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin has at least two things to be proud of as he looks back at 2002, the first full year he held the position.

Against all odds, China's farm-produce exports hit a record high last year; plus, the country harvested the most soybeans - 16.5 million tons - in its history.

The figures were released yesterday, when the minister addressed local agricultural chiefs at a national meeting in Beijing.

Thanks to countermeasures the country adopted in its first year of membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), China was able to export - among many products - 200,000 tons of top-grade wheat in 2002, an historic breakthrough, Du said.

Meanwhile, corn exports reached 9.77 million tons by November, jumping 83 per cent year-on-year, the latest customs statistics show.

Although figures on agricultural exports for the whole year of 2002 are not yet available, the volume had already exceeded US$12.62 billion by September, leaving a surplus of US$3.88 billion, according to the ministry.

Soybeans became a pet crop for Du and other agricultural officials last year. And the country's efforts to develop highly productive and high oil-bearing varieties paid off.

In what was dubbed a national "soybean action plan," China planted 666,600 hectares of soybeans in its Northeast region last year. Per-hectare yield reached 2,617.5 kilogrammes, higher than in the United States, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the oil-bearing rate improved by up to 1.5 percentage points to reach 21.5 percent in Heilongjiang Province, said Lu Yushuang, a local agricultural official.

Heartened by the success stories of 2002, Du vowed to continue sharpening the competitive edge of the Chinese farm-produce industry and add to the coffers of farmers in the new year.

This includes efforts to optimize the crop-growing mix, improve production quality controls and promote science and technology in the farming sector, he said.

He also said that China will continue to transfer 89.6 million redundant rural labourers to townships to promote the country's urbanization.

The agriculture ministry would provide training and information for rural workers, safeguard their rights and interests and prevent discrimination, Du said.

(China Daily January 10, 2003)

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