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Farmers Plant Less Rice, Wheat This Spring
This year, less early rice, spring wheat, and cotton were planted in China, but more tobacco, jute and ambary hemp and sugar cane have been planted, the National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday.

The growing area planted in early rice was 5.83 million hectares, a drop of 370,000 hectares or 5.9 per cent compared with last year's figures.

The area planted in spring wheat was 1.96 million hectares, a decline of 190,000 hectares or 8.7 per cent less than the area planted last year.

"The reason for the reduction in planting of early rice and spring wheat was mainly that they no longer enjoy protective price controls. The reduction in profitability led farmers to cut areas planted in these crops," a spokesman with the bureau said.

The reduction in planting was also because of the long period of low temperatures, with overcast skies and rain in April and May in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, which led farmers to put off sowing until it was eventually too late, the spokesman said.

The serious drought in South China's Guangdong Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region also affected the planting of early rice, he said.

The spokesman said planting of spring cotton saw the heaviest reductions this year.

A total of 3.71 million hectares of cotton were planted, a drop of 590,000 hectares or 13.8 per cent less than was planted last year.

China has a surplus of cotton, because the country's production increased greatly last year, the spokesman said.

Cotton prices on the domestic and international market have continued to drop. Cotton prices in some areas have been lower than cost, the spokesman said. "This seriously hurts farmers' willingness to plant," he said.

The spokesman noted that jute and ambary hemp production has been in the doldrums in recent years.

The area planted in these two crops was only 50,000 hectares in 2000, the lowest on record. The area increased to 52,000 hectares in 2001, including autumn planting.

The growing area of jute and ambary hemp this spring was 40,000 hectares, an increase of 3,000 hectares or 6.8 per cent compared with spring figures for a year ago.

The relatively good prices for sugar cane continued to encourage farmers to expand areas planted in the crop, the spokesman said.

Farmers planted 1.61 million hectares of sugar cane, an increase of 160,000 hectares or 11 per cent over figures for the previous year.

The area planted in flue-cured tobacco was 1.14 million hectares this spring, up 120,000 hectares or 12 per cent over the previous year's figures.

"The relatively higher profit encouraged farmers to expand production," he said.

(China Daily July 4, 2002)

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