Per capita cash income earned by Chinese farmers grew a year-on-year 6.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2003, reversing negative growth of 3.3 per cent during the second quarter due to the SARS outbreak.
The National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday farmers' per capita cash income stood at 643 yuan (US$77.5) during the July-September period, an increase of 44 yuan (US$5.3) from a year ago.
For the first three quarters, farmers' per capita cash income rose a year-on-year 3.8 per cent to 1,802 yuan (US$217.1), the bureau said.
The cash increase during the third quarter was mainly because more farmers went to work in cities, said bureau spokesman Yao Jingyuan.
By the end of September, the number of farmers working in cities had reached 80.7 million - a hike of 5 million people compared with the end of June.
Farmers earned 66 yuan (US$7.9) per capita from working in cities during the third quarter, an increase of 20.1 per cent from the same period last year.
According to Yao, China witnessed fast fixed asset investment in rural areas during the third quarter, which helped create more job opportunities for local farmers.
They earned 43 yuan (US$5.2) per capita from working at local fixed asset investment projects, a year-on-year increase of 14.3 per cent.
They also earned more from selling their farming products, due to price rises, Yao said.
Farmers earned 272 yuan (US$32.8) per capita from selling farm products during the third quarter, an increase of 7.1 per cent.
After the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic was brought under control in the third quarter, farmers were able to resume their industrial and service sectors, Yao said.
Farmers operating within the two sectors earned 121 yuan (US$14.6) per capita.
The expansion of the "fees-for-tax" reform in the rural area also helped reduce farmers' financial burden, pushing up their take-home pay, he said.
Xie Yang, a senior researcher with the Development Research Centre under the State Council, said the Chinese Government has always paid great attention to increasing farmers' income.
"The slow growth of their income has long been a headache for the central government because it greatly affects the implementation of the demand-stimulated policy," he said.
"If consumption in rural areas cannot be stimulated, the full expansion of domestic demand, a strong engine for economic growth, will not be realized."
Slow growth will hinder the overall economic development and even undermine social stability, Xie said.
The government should continue to encourage farmers to work in cities, he said.
The government should also strictly carry out the previously designed measures to increase farmers' income. They include increasing investment in agriculture and rural areas and supply and marketing system reforms, financial system reforms, medical reforms and "fees-for-tax" reforms in rural areas.
(China Daily October 30, 2003)