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Premier Eases Public Concern of Price Hikes
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao assured the public Saturday that the government would surely be able to ensure supply and stabilize prices as the nation has achieved steady and fast economic growth for several years with good harvests of grain crops and rapid industrial growth.

Wen was addressing the public concern over price hikes after the country's consumer price index hit a 33-month-high of 4.4 percent in June. Several industries including catering and oil have started to raise prices and trigger public complaints.

To get first-hand information about the markets, Wen came to the Xinfadi farm produce wholesale market, the largest of its kind in Beijing, in the morning.

Pork vender Qian Guangping complained to Wen that rising pork prices had dented demand and cut his sales from the previous 600 kilograms per day to 500 kilograms. "I earned much less now. When do you think the price will fall?" he asked.

"As pig breeding has a production cycle, it will take some time," Wen said, assuring him that the government has taken a package of policies.

"The key is to stimulate the enthusiasm of the farmers. So long as the policies are right, pork supply will rally and the price will fall," he said.

Guo Shuping, who happened to be there to buy pork, said to Wen, "The price is a bit high. Lean pork costs 11.5 yuan per jin (half kilogram). Even the butt costs 9.8 yuan."

In 10 AM, Wen came to the Wanfa Hengshun Farm Produce Marketin Xicheng District which is responsible for the supply of more than 40,000 people in Sanlihe area.

Premier Wen came to Wu Guifang, who had shopped eggs, and picked up one egg from her shopping bag and examine it, asking how she thought of the current prices. The woman said some of vegetables have got expensive, but the price hikes were not huge.

Wen nodded, and urged local market management to see to it that each deal is done in an open, fair and transparent manner. No one is allowed to hoard supply and drive up prices.

He said current price hikes were mainly led by farm produce and non-staple foodstuff such as grain crops and pork. But there are indeed a few market dealers seeking price alliances to rig the market and damage the interests of the public.

Wen said that agricultural subsidies on seeds, farming machinery and other supplies must be handed directly to farmers. He encouraged flood-stricken areas to restore farming as early as possible to secure autumn grain crop production, which normally accounts for three quarters of the country's annual grain output.

Policies for supporting pork production must be seriously implemented, he said.

The Premier has required local governments at various levels to have a clear idea of production, procurement, distribution and stockpile of daily necessities and make proper allocation when necessary to secure market supply. "The supply line for daily necessities should not be disrupted," he said.

Wen required market watchdogs at various levels to immediately stage price overhaul, severely punish those who fabricate or spread false price hikes information, and hoard supplies to drive up prices.

He reiterated that low-income households and students from poverty-stricken families must be subsidized in time to make sure their living standards won't drop amid price hikes.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2007)

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