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Agriculture still top priority next year
Updated: 2004-11-26 23:37

Strengthening agriculture will again top the agenda of China's State Council, or cabinet, for economic work next year, according to the decision made at a State Council executive meeting held here Friday.

The participants in the meeting, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, agreed that grain production has turned for the better and the income of farmers has increased rapidly since the government issued a series of favorable policies to boost agriculture, and grain production in particular, earlier this year, said sources with the meeting.

Although this has provided a major foundation for maintaining economic and social stability and development, no fundamental improvements have not been made in agriculture, and strengthening agriculture will remain the top priority of the government's economic work next year, the sources said.

To further boost agricultural and rural development, the State Council listed the major for this winter and next spring in seven areas, including protecting farmland and farmers' interests, keeping a reasonable and stable grain price to protect the enthusiasm of grain growers, and speeding up construction of irrigation and water conservancy projects and water supply projects in the countryside.

The State Council also called for measures to ensure crops to survive the winter and prevent livestock diseases, as well as intensified efforts for poverty reduction, disaster relief, and the supply of seeds, chemical fertilizers, diesel oil, plastic films and other capital goods for agricultural production.

All localities were urged to implement the favorable policies to support agriculture, especially those concerning subsidies to grain production, the reduction and exemption of agricultural taxes, and the payment of arrears of farmer workers' wage and compensation for land acquired.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China has always put grain security high on its policy agenda, especially when grain output declined for five years running to reach 431 million tons in 2003, lower than the set warning line of 450 million tons. Affected by the international grain market and the decline of domestic grain output, the price of major grain crops, such as rice and wheat, have all gone up by a big margin since last October.

In February this year, the central authorities issued the "No. 1 Document," slashing agricultural tax rates by one percentage point and abolishing taxes on special farm produce.

Since the second half of last year, while controlling the overheating of some economic sectors, the Chinese government has increased efforts to support agriculture, transportation and energy. Policies including direct subsidies and tax reduction at the beginning of this year have encouraged the world's greatest number of farmers to grow more grain.

This summer, grain output increased 3 percent over last year.

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