About 4,500 retail shops are to be built in villages in Shaanxi this year to improve farmers' living conditions.
Statistics reveal that 67 percent of the 28 million rural population in the inland province in northwest China are not provided with convenient commercial services.
"To allow local farmers to enjoy a better commercial service, without having to go to urban stores far from their homes, we will develop more convenient commercial facilities in remote rural areas," said Li Xuemei, director of Shaanxi Provincial Commerce Department.
She said 4,500 shops would be built by the end of this year, with thousands more to follow.
"Our purpose is to build 30,000 retail rural shops within three years and, with proper management, these rural stores will provide local farmers with good quality and reasonably priced goods."
Luo Junhu, director of the villagers' committee in Luojiagou, a mountain village in Longxian County in western Shaanxi, said it took people there 3 hours to get to the nearest store for daily necessities.
"We have to go over 30 kilometers to get to the nearest shop in the township," Luo said.
Yang Chunsheng, a local farmer, said his village was about 25 kilometers from downtown Xi'an, capital of the province.
"When I bought my TV set from a store downtown, I had to pay an extra fee because the shop only provided free delivery within an area of 20 kilometers. If there is a store near my village, I can enjoy convenient and better service."
According to the plan, commercial enterprises can invest into the building of some of these shops. So it is viewed as a good opportunity for them to expand their businesses in the rural areas.
Qu Jiaqi, general manager of a large commercial enterprise in Xi'an, said that his company was building new distribution centers, and setting up supply networks for the new shops when they open.
Farmers have already seen other improvements in the area recently.
Shaanxi's postal service has built 1,137 delivery service stations for agricultural production materials and living goods, and has been operating 45 postal service supermarkets in the province's rural areas.
They provide more than 5,000 products for farmers, according to Yan Shiping, official with Shaanxi Provincial Postal Administration Bureau.
"Our postal service will continue efforts to further improve the postal service for farmers by delivering improved high-grade seeds in cooperation with Yangling High-tech Agricultural Research Base in Shaanxi, in order to meet the requirement of agricultural production," Yan said.
He added the postal service sent more than 1,600 tons of seeds to local farmers in 30 counties last year, and that it plans to extend the service to all the 89 counties and districts in the province by the end of the year.
(China Daily March 16, 2006)