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Better Tech Urged to Help Farmers Face WTO

Chinese agriculture experts are reiterating the importance of improving the quality and safety of farm products to meet the challenges posed by China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

More than 40 officials and experts gathered on Tuesday in Beijing to discuss how to better develop China's agriculture technology to help the country engage in free international trade of agricultural products.

Participants agreed it was critical to set up an efficient quality control and monitoring system for farm produce.

China's agriculture is subject to global changes in prices, market accessibility, trade structure and trade rules now that the country is a WTO member.

This is a blow to the country's comparatively fragile agricultural product industry, said Li Xueyong, vice-minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

"Upgrading agricultural techniques is the fundamental way out for China's agricultural industry," Li said. "More investment and information services are also urged."

The Chinese Government has decided to increase its investment in the agricultural sector. About 6 billion yuan (US$730 million) is being invested in scientific research during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), three times of that of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), officials said.

Agricultural experts are urging China's agricultural product processing industry, an important component of the country's agricultural sector, to co-operate with other countries in capital and technology.

For years, low quality, shabby packaging and poor hygiene created barriers to exporting products and have weakened the industry's competitiveness in the domestic market, said Xia Youfu, a professor with the University of International Business and Economics.

Upgrading the sector with advanced technology is a crucial step in the transition from traditional agriculture to industrialized one, Xia said.

(China Daily May 15, 2002)

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