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Farmers Flock to International High-tech Fair
An International Agriculture and Food Fair being held in the capital of northeastern Jilin province has drawn over 300,000 viewers in the past few days, including many farmers from outskirt areas thirst for high-tech farming knowledge.

Zhou Wei, a veteran farmer from Changchun's outskirts said that the third fair of its kind had indeed enlarged his horizons. He explained that he had discovered an improved breed of cow while there and planned to change his cow breed.

According to the organization committee, the fair which opened last Thursday, has put on display agricultural machinery and equipment as well as a host of improved breeds of livestock and crop strains from more than 20 countries.

The fair aims to spread advanced agricultural technology among Chinese farmers in a simple but distinct way.

For a long period of time the Chinese government has devoted its efforts to assisting farmers across the country to turn to advanced domestic and overseas agricultural technical-how and encouraged them to apply whatever knowledge and techniques that are available into their practice as soon as possible.

Yang Qingcai, vice-governor of Jilin province, said his provincial government had spared no effort to impart agricultural technology to farmers in a bid to enhance their farming efficiency.

Statistics show from the winter of 2000 to the spring of 2001, the Chinese government delivered more than 150 million technology books to farmers nationwide. It also arranged for 1.47 million technicians to go to the countryside to give training courses to local farmers. Nearly 97 million local farmers have attended this type of course at least once.

At the fair, 200,000 agricultural books and more than one million brochures were distributed and delivered free to farmers while agronomists, agro-technians and scholars voluntarily gave lectures to visitors.

Nevertheless, the Chinese farmers' lack of education and the shortage of channels for them to access the most up-to-date information are leading barriers to China's agricultural development, experts said.

It would take China some 10 to 15 years to catch up with its western counterparts in the field of agricultural technology, according to a senior agricultural official in Jilin province.

Informing farmers about others who have made superb farming achievements through technology could set them role models and help spread agricultural technology throughout the farming world, he said.

Li Huaicai, a young farmer in the Jiaohe county of Jilin province, took the advantage of advanced technology for strawberry growing by studying at home. His strawberry products are now selling briskly on the markets in the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan and the United States.

As part of an effort to encourage more farmers follow suit, the Jilin provincial government spread Li's story via all its media channels.

So far, 40 farmers selected from different regions of the province are currently working along with Li, the young farmer, to acquaint themselves with his skills and experience.

Although the Internet is still not much used in the vast Chinese countryside, some farmers hungry for knowledge have, however, already started to look for business opportunities by surfing the net.

Qi Jingfa, vice-minister of agriculture, noted that some hurdles do exist in trying to spread agricultural knowledge to China's 900 million farmers, but something has to be done at whatever the cost.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2002)

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