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China Gov't ploughs cash for farmers
China Daily
Farmer Lu Shoutang in Hebei Province has a lot of reasons to be cheerful. This year's summer harvest has been better than any previous year's, and not just because of the weather.
One day as the family was busy reaping corn, news came in that the government had cut agricultural tax by half, from 4 per cent to 2 per cent, and raised the retail price of grain by 60 per cent, to 1.5 yuan (0.18 US cents) per kilogramme.
"From the summer harvest alone, we made a few hundred yuan in extra income," said Lu, who owns a farm plot 6.5 mu (0.43 hectares) in size. "The sum is by no means small for us. Last year, what we made from crop farming barely covered the cost of production."
The Lus live in a village called Liujia on the North China Plain, one of China's "bread baskets." Most households there live from the proceeds of two crops a year, customarily wheat in the summer and maize in the autumn. Like the Lus, they are benefiting from recent government incentives, which are meant, above all, to ensure there is enough food in the most populous country in the world.
In the late 1970s, China's rural population started on its sweeping reforms, which enabled them to become independent producers for the first time since the agricultural collectivization movement in the mid-1950s.
A new system has since then held sway all over the country, under which rural households are basic units of rural production and, as such, keep whatever is left of their harvests after paying taxes to the government and a fee to their villages.
The rural reform was to expand into cities, culminating in a nationwide drive to make the entire national economy market-oriented.
Rural people are the first to have benefited from the reforms, which were devised by late leader Deng Xiaoping, who was commemorated on the centenary of his birth this August.
As the reforms developed in scope and depth, China's grain production increased steadily and, in the mid-1980s, the government was able to lift food rations which had been imposed on the entire Chinese population in the 1950s.
The result has been immediate. On July 16, when the summer harvest had just ended in most parts of China, the State Bureau of Statistics announced that grain production had begun picking up and that the year's grain output would reach 455 million tons - 24 million tons more than in 2003.
The bureau also reported that net incomes increased by 7.8 per cent year-on-year for China's rural population in the first six months of 2004, the fastest growth in the past two decades.
MGR Archive 12.9.2004
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