Soaring pork prices across China have convinced a college junior to drop out of university and take up pig farming.
"It's not a spur-of-the-moment idea," said Wang Chao, a 22-year-old zoology major. "I will need to find a job anyway and this year's rising pork prices have offered an opportunity."
Wang quit the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University about four months ago to help his parents raise pigs in their home county of Jingyang in the northwestern Shaanxi Province.
His decision did not surprise his father Wang Baofeng. "He's helped me with the farm work since he was a child. I respect his choice."
While his peers spent long hours writing thesis and preparing for tests, Wang carefully rationed out homemade feed to the pigs, cleaned up the sties and renovated the buildings to allow more natural light in.
The economic effect was almost instant: his family earned 30,000 yuan (US$3,850) net from 60 pigs sold this year. Pork prices have almost doubled the last seven months due to short supply and mounting production costs.
Wang said he planned to expand his family's operation from 100 to 1,500 pigs in five years. "The village officials have agreed to allot 1.3 hectares of land as my pig farm, but I still need a bank loan or a partner to finance the project."
Most of villagers felt the job was beneath the young man. "Only a few of the best students in the village can enter universities every year," said Wang Zhenhua, a neighbor.
For Wang, quitting school was a relief in a way because his parents had been on a tight budget, financing his education and that of his sister, a senior high school student.
His teachers and classmates had tried to stop him, but failed, said one of Wang's university teachers, surnamed Zhou. "He was always easy-going, but this time he was firm."
Still, Zhou said the college authorities would give Wang a chance to suspend his education for a year or two. "We hope he'll come back."
Wang's story has sparked a debate in China after it appeared on a local newspaper in his home province of Shaanxi last week. Some criticized him for being too "shortsighted", but others sympathized with him, given the slim job market for Chinese college graduates.
Last year, about 30 percent, or 1.2 million, of the graduates failed to find a job, and the government has encouraged students to take up jobs in rural areas.
(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2007)