When deputy Zhai Youcai addressed a panel presentation on behalf of farmers on Thursday, he said he was very grateful to Premier Wen Jiabao.
"My grandfather was a farmer. My father is a farmer, and I am a farmer as well, but we never dreamed of the day we would be free of agricultural tax before Wen took power in 2003," said the 43 years old from the Heilongjiang delegation to the National People's Congress.
That day finally arrived during Wen's first five-year term as premier.
After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the government began to follow other economies, implementing a "giving more but taking less" policy for rural regions. In 2006, the central government scrapped agricultural tax, which had been a huge burden for millions of poor farmers.
"For the first time in history, we farmers are free of various taxation burdens. Furthermore, we have benefited from subsidies, a grain-price boost and other benefits," Zhai said.
He said he became extremely emotional when Wen bowed three times to deputies after delivering his final Governmental Work Report on Tuesday. "At that moment, my eyes were full of tears."
Due to the incentive measures, China's grain production has gained steadily for nine years, with Zhai saying several agricultural cooperatives have formed in his hometown to further increase competitiveness.
After delivering his thank you message, Zhai stood holding two plates of rice - one of brown rice and the other white. "In spite of the rosy picture, we have wasted a lot of rice when processing it," he said.
Zhai explained that Chinese consumers love to eat polished rice - regular milled white rice - instead of brown rice, despite the latter being more nutritious. Appealing to the needs of consumers, most rice-processing factories have introduced complicated polishing procedures before the product goes to supermarkets, he said.
Zhai said this eating habit has resulted in tremendous waste because the peeling and polishing results in grain loss of at least 20 percent. "If we urgently stop this processing, we can increase our grain yields greatly," he said.
Based on his calculations, the amount of rice wasted annually is sufficient to feed about 10 million people.
Zhai has proposed that a law be introduced to encourage the consumption of brown and unpolished rice, and that the polishing process in rice-processing factories be stopped.
"This also fits well with our current frugality campaign," said Zhai, in a reference to recent decisions by China's new leadership to promote a frugal lifestyle among officials.