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Farmers in Heilongjiang rake in more money
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-26 22:56

Wu Changyou, a 42-year-old Heilongjiang Province farmer, expects another high-yield maize crop this year, the sixth in a row.

Wu plans to turn 150 tons of maize out of 18 hectares of fields into cash. The sale will put him among a growing number of farmers who are seeing their incomes rise.

Authorities predicted that per capita net income of farmers in the province would exceed an unprecedented 3,000 yuan (US$360), 20 per cent higher than last year.

Total grain output reached 31.35 billion kilograms this year, an year-on-year increase of 6.23 billion kilograms or 25 per cent.

Production eclipsed the record high of 1997.

Rebounded grain prices have also contributed to the higher incomes, said Wang.

Average grain prices are up 20 per cent over last year, adding nearly 3 billion yuan (US$360 million) of income.

The rising prices are a departure from almost a decade of falling returns.

Wu attributed his bumper harvest and growing income to high-quality seeds, modern technology, the mercy of the climate and a preferential government agricultural policy.

This Northeast China province launched a pilot project to waive agricultural tax at the beginning of this year.

Farmers saved 2.82 billion yuan (US$339 million) from the tax exemption this year.

That put an average of about 122 yusn (US$14) extra in each farmer's pocket.

The province also extended to farmers nearly 2.4 billion yuan (US$289 million) in agricultural subsidies this year.

"Tax exemptions and some agricultural subsidies prompted more and more farmers to return to their lands," said Wang Likui from the Heilongjiang Provincial Agricultural Commission.

As a result, farm acreage across the province grew by 350,000 hectares.

More strategic co-operation with southern provinces in great need of grain paved the way for the smooth sales of grain grown in the province, which is one of the largest commodity grain production bases in the country.

The province has freighted nearly 6 billion kilograms of grain to Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian and its surrounding areas in the past 10 months.

"Despite the remarkable improvement, challenges and problems still exist," said Wang.

Although bumper harvests and high grain prices resulted in higher incomes for farmers, the price of the production materials, such as seeds, fertilizer and diesel oil, all soared.

And frequent disputes over the farmland use rights still haunt some local governments in the province.

At the same time, drought and pests plagued some areas in the west part of the province.

Wang also raised concerns that grain prices might decline again due to oversupply.

The province wants to maintain the grain production above 30 billion kilograms next year.

"I hope the government will stick to the current policies to alleviate the burden and protect farmers' interest next year," Wu was quoted as saying by the Heilongjiang Daily.

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