Back to nature, Liuyang Party chief grows rice

Updated: 2008-04-30 09:21

Yi Jialiang, Party chief of the CPC Liuyang municipal committee, spreads weed killer in the paddy field he rented in this photo. [file]

It's not unusual to see farmers busy working on their farmland in an agricultural city like Liuyang in Hunan province, which is also known for fireworks manufacturing.

But recently, news of a government official growing rice in the rural areas of Liuyang aroused much attention and interest from the public.

More than 1,000 comments were posted on online forums within the first 20 minutes of the news appearing on a website on April 28, 2008.

Yi Jialiang, Party chief of the CPC Liuyang municipal committee, and standing committee member of the CPC Changsha committee, didn't expect his actions would spark such a heated debate from netizens.

For him, the decision to transplant rice seedlings in the field was one he thought over for a long time.

The idea came up in February, during the sessions of Liuyang people’s congress and people's political consultative conference. Liu Xu, another member of CPC Liuyang standing Committee, told Liu Jingsi, a local legislature deputy and boss of a fireworks factory in Liuyang, that Party secretary Yi was interested in renting a piece of land to plough himself.

Liu Jingsi offered his land for Yi to work on. He accepted it after visiting to the 2.8-mu (about 0.46 acre) plot in Futian village in late March.

"In total, seven people leased the land," explained Yi. "I put in 100 yuan and the others invested 50 yuan each. We gave that money to Liu Jingsi's father and asked him to use that money to level the land and buy weed killer." Of the seven investors, several were leaders from the Liuyang municipal government.

"Planting began on April 21. Several local officials came to the plot first in the noon and later came secretary Yi and Mayor Liang," reported Hu Jixing, former Party chief of Futian village.

According to an official from the Liuyang publicity department, a local reporter heard about the story on April 21 and phoned Yi for an interview. But the story wasn't published at all. "Secretary Yi grows rice just for fun. If it is reported by the media, people may think he is on show," the official from Liuyang publicity department said.

But on April 25, Yi was busy spreading weed killer in the rice paddy, and claimed such statements were untrue.

He stressed from the beginning "there are no other motives, including political ones except for the purpose of fun, leisure and returning to the nature. It's just purely personal lifestyle decision."

Liuyang is a grain-producing city with a population of 1.3 million, and 89 percent of its population are involved in agricultural production. Local farmers used to plant two rice harvests, but as a result of high production costs and low incomes from growing rice, farmers have generally given up early rice planting in April. But Yi wanted to plant two rice harvests, making his plot of land the only rice paddy that looks green in the village in April. Plots no less than several hundred mu are left uncultivated. Farmers wait for May to grow a single rice harvest.

Many Futian villagers nowadays get paid mainly by working in factories. But seeing that Yi is growing rice, the villagers hope they can come back to the fields. "Prices soar and the price for most agricultural goods like chemicals, seeds and tools has risen by more than 30 percent. It's good for the Party secretary to farm himself. That way he can better understand the hardships of farmers and it may benefit agricultural policies and farmers," said Futian villager Tang Guofeng.

As to local people's expectations and the recent global food crisis, Yi said it's understandable for farmers to leave their land uncultivated seasonally since they earn so little from farming.

"If they can earn 100 yuan per day from their land, they will be more willing to come back to farming. As a result, more food can be produced to solve the food crisis," Yi explained.

So far, Yi has made four visits to his rice paddy in Futian village. He said he has no special treatment for renting the land. He rent it for 100 kg of rice per mu while others in the village pay a rent of 75 kg of rice per mu.

He said there was nothing special about the land and rice he grew on it. He says the 2.8 mu land would be used for two rice harvests.

"We plan to sell 1000 kg rice after the harvest. I am sure the output will exceed 1000 kg per mu if we plant two rice harvests."

However, opinions over Yi’s farming project are divided.

An online survey conducted by is still under way. Fifty thousand netizens participated in the survey within five hours. About 49.7 percent think the Party Chief is just doing a public relations stunt, while 43.7 percent think he is growing rice for personal relaxation and may help officials know agricultural policies and farmers better. For 6.55 percent, they find the truth of the matter hard to judge.

Yi noted he used to work on a farm during the late 1970s and early 1980s for seven years. But he explained "now farming is just for fun and relaxation, is just a kind of exercise."

Some netizens were concerned Yi might spend too much time growing rice than doing his primary job. In response Yi said he would not come to his rice paddy until he finishes his work as party secretary. For example, on April 25, he made supervisory visits to several urban districts before heading to the rice field.

"I have told officials in the town and village not to pay special attention to my rice paddy. We can manage it by ourselves. Officials in the town and village have their own work to deal with," Yi added.

"Everything I do is under the supervision of Liuyang people. I just accompanied some guests to sing songs. Sometimes if I feel tired, I will go to have a footbath to help me relax. I am renting the land so I will look after it."

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