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Farmers Earn More, But Still Lag Behind
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The gap between the incomes of rural and urban residents is continuing to widen despite an increase in farmers' incomes, a senior agricultural official said yesterday.

Vice-Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie said the per capita net income of farmers has increased by more than 6 percent for three consecutive years, the first time since 1985.

Last year, farmers' average per capita net income was 3,587 yuan ($480), up 7.4 percent on the previous year.

In the first half of this year, the figure was 2,111 yuan, a year-on-year increase of 13 percent, the fastest growth since 1995.

But their incomes are still behind those of urban residents, Yin said.

"The ratio of urban and rural residents' income was 3.28:1 last year, up from 3.21:1 in 2004, and the difference in per capita income has reached 8,173 yuan," he said.

In order to decrease the gap and boost farmers' incomes the government will continue to adopt favorable policies to farmers, promote modern agricultural methods and encourage the transfer of rural labor, Yin said.

Ministry figures showed at least 210 million rural laborers have migrated to cities or townships last year. In the first six months of this year, the number of migrant workers increased by 8.6 million, a year-on-year growth of 8.1 percent.

"(This migration) has caused problems, such as leaving just women and old farmers to cultivate farmland," Yin said.

"But it adds to farmers' incomes and many of them have broadened their horizons and learned new skills."

Yin said grain production had increased since 2004.

This year, despite severe natural disasters, the summer harvest output was 115 billion kg of grain, a year-on-year growth of 1.5 billion kg.

"The year's grain output depends on the autumn harvest. So far, the grain is growing well, with both the sowing areas and high-yield crop areas larger than last year," he said.

"If there is no early frost or low temperatures, we should have a good autumn harvest."

Jia Youling, chief veterinary officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, said at the same news conference the blue-ear epidemic is under control.

Just 14 counties in seven provinces still have the epidemic. He said more than 2 million pigs have been vaccinated, after 286 counties in 26 provinces reported the epidemic earlier this year.

(China Daily September 14, 2007)

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