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Gov't Aims to Fatten Wallets of Farmers

The central government will redouble its efforts to replicate this year's favorable results in China's grain production and farmers' incomes for next year.

The strategies to achieve the goals in the 13 main grain production provinces will be widely discussed at the annual Central Agricultural Conference, which is scheduled to be held at the end of December.

Jiang Zhongyi, a researcher from the Research Center of Rural Economy under the Ministry of Agriculture said that the central government has shown strong political commitment to fatten the wallets of farmers, whose incomes this year are expected to show an 8 percent year-on-year increase, the highest rate for the previous years.

The commitment has already been shown by President Hu Jintao and Ma Kai, the minister in charge of economic planning, in their reports delivered at the annual Central Economic Conference closed on Sunday and National Development and Reform Conference ended yesterday.

The 21st Century Business Herald cited informed sources as saying that the new year's No 1 document from the central government and Central Committee of Communist Party of China will focus on grain production and farmers incomes.

It is a continuation of political commitment after the government issued its No 1 document at the beginning of this year to lessen farmers' burdens and rekindle their enthusiasm for planting grain.

Jiang said he is confident about the policy adjustment.

He also said farmers across the nation will be freed from the burden of agricultural taxes within three years, two years ahead of the schedule promised by Premier Wen Jiabao in March.

"The government has already made the decision, which will be announced soon," Jiang aid, adding speedier implementation is mainly thanks to the unanimous support for the decision from both provincial and local governments.

Farmers in northeast China's Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces have been exempted from paying agricultural taxes on a trial basis. Agricultural taxes were reduced by 3 per cent in 11 major grain production areas, including north China's Hebei Province.

This year, the central government has earmarked 10 billion yuan (US$1.21 billion) from its grain risk fund to directly subsidize grain farmers, alleviating falling output and slow income growth.

"Thanks to the favorable policies and good weather, Chinese farmers have reaped a good harvest this year," said Jiang. He said this year is the best one in terms of weather since 1995.

Jiang's view was echoed by Ma Kai, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, in his report delivered at the national meeting ended yesterday.

Ma said restructuring in agriculture and the rural economy has also made new progress, improper use of arable lands has virtually been stopped, and health, education and science and technology have developed quickly in rural areas.

He attributed the concrete changes to a series of measures taken by the State Council.

He pledged the government will continue to promote food production and stabilize the price of means of production and consumer goods in rural areas.

Xinhua quoted Tang Min, chief economist with Resident Mission of the Asian Development Bank in China, as saying that the task of increasing agricultural production and improving farmers' incomes still remains arduous.

There is still much for the government to do in lightening farmer's burdens, he said.

(China Daily December 10, 2004)

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