Raise farm productivity
Updated: 2012-03-06 08:14
Yuan Longping, a famous agriculture scientist and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member, recently proposed that the State should purchase grain from farmers at a higher price to raise farmers' incomes.
While that might sound like a good way to directly subsidize farmers, the proposal has limitations in the long run.
Artificially boosting the price of agricultural products will require subsidies from the State, which will be a heavy burden for China, where government support already accounts for a fair share of the added value in agriculture. Such price hikes would also make China's agricultural products less competitive in the global market, thus hurting farmers in the long run.
Moreover, raising the price of what are in effect daily necessities will increase the cost of living and further raise the CPI.
Therefore we cannot rely on government subsidies to promote farmers' incomes in the long run and a more lasting solution must be found.
According to recent surveys, if a rural family has 5,000 square meters of arable land, which is not rare in China, it can earn up to 6,000 yuan ($950) from one man laboring 60 days a year. That means the average daily pay is 100 yuan, higher than the hourly wage in many cities.
The problem is that a family can only work 60 days a year with 5,000 sq m of arable land. The situation would be totally different if it had 10 times the amount of land.
With more arable land, farms could be run like a business and more could be invested in modern technology. This would undoubtedly produce higher returns and would not result in any price increases because it would be farmers' efficiency that had risen, not their costs.
At present obtaining more land is only possible as a result of urbanization, when more farmers leave the rural areas to work in the city.
We hope the process can be further propelled and better regulated to benefit more farmers in the future.
(China Daily 03/06/2012 page9)