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Farmers regain confidence after floodwaters recede

By AN BAIJIE and ZHU LIXIN in Hefei | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-09-22 07:37
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Aerial photo taken on July 6, 2020 shows the flooded farmland in Shimen county, Central China's Hunan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Seeing that his newly planted buckwheat began sprouting on once-flooded farmland, Zhou Jihong said he felt relieved.

Zhou, a farmer in the township of Shannan in Anhui province's Feixi county, had his 1,400 mu (93.3 hectares) of rice plants devastated after an unusually heavy rainfall on the night of July 18.

"The flood left me nothing but hopelessness and I thought I was going broke," he told China Daily last week. "Fortunately, the government quickly offered me a helping hand after the flood receded."

The farmer replanted on the farmland following local officials' advice, and he received 182,000 yuan ($26,772), or 130 yuan for each mu, from the local government as a subsidy to buy seed and plow the land for replanting. Another 140,000 yuan is also in the pipeline for him as subsidy to buy fertilizer after the crop grows bigger.

Yao Weidong, deputy head of the township, said that subsidies aim to help the farmers replant and secure the town's grain production.

"General Secretary Xi Jinping has paid great attention to the country's food security, and we must overcome the problems caused by the flood and try to stabilize grain production," he said.

In August, President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, paid a visit to the flood-affected residents in Anhui, where he walked through the fields under the blazing sun and consoled families of those who died fighting floods.

Xi encouraged farmers to resume their work as floodwaters receded. "I have always been concerned about people in flood-stricken areas," he said.

In July, Xi traveled to corn fields in Jilin province, the country's most crucial commodity grain center, and learned about grain production as well as mechanized and large-scale farming.

He issued instructions for effective measures to protect and utilize the high-yielding black soil, which he said is as precious as pandas. "I care very much about grain production and food security," Xi said.

Approximately 70.47 million people in 28 provinces have been affected by floods this year, up 17 percent from the average of the past five years, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.

The floods have resulted in total direct economic losses of almost 214.31 billion yuan, 27 percent more than the average of the past five years, according to the ministry.

Yao, the township official, said it was not easy to persuade farmers to replant crops after the flood.

"Many people worried that more floods would come, and they refused to plant crops because they were afraid of a second round of losses," he said, adding that the problem became more urgent as winter grew nearer.

To help the farmers address the problem, the local government invited agricultural experts from local research institutes and universities to offer advice to the farmers.

Following the experts' suggestions, the farmers planted buckwheat and soybeans on their land. These crops have a shorter growth period-about three months-and can be harvested before winter.

To encourage the farmers to plant buckwheat, which always grows in the country's plateau areas and had never been planted in Anhui province before, the township government helped the farmers contact a local food processing company to arrange the sale of their crops, Yao said.

These measures were effective in getting farmers to plant again, and the buckwheat plants had already sprouted last week.

Securing production

Xia Lunping, head of the Hefei Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said that the city government has allocated 100 million yuan of fiscal funds to subsidize farmers and fishers affected by floods to resume production.

"President Xi has stressed the 'people-first' philosophy of governance many times, which is the guideline for our work," he said.

Xia said about 36,790 hectares of land in Hefei was replanted after the flood receded, accounting for 99.5 percent of the hard-hit farmlands that were suitable for replanting.

The bureau is making great efforts to stabilize grain production, given that the current national food security situation is serious because of the floods as well as the COVID-19 outbreak this year, he said.

To respond to COVID-19, the CPC Central Committee adopted timely measures at an early stage. Central authorities convened the national work conference on spring plowing in February, one month earlier than usual, to draw this year's road map for agricultural production.

On many occasions, Xi has stressed the importance of food security, reiterating that "the rice bowl of the Chinese people, in any situation, must be firmly held in our own hands".

In a discussion with political advisers from different economic sectors during the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference annual session in May, Xi underlined the importance of food security. And last month, he made an instruction to call for the whole of society to resolutely put an end to wasting food and promote thrift.

Calling the issue of food waste shocking and distressing, Xi highlighted the need to maintain a sense of urgency regarding food security, especially amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact that China has scored consecutive bumper harvests.

16th bumper year

China produced a record high of 664 million metric tons of grain last year, the 16th consecutive year of bumper crops, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The country's summer grain production was 142.8 billion kilograms this year, up 0.9 percent year-on-year, which is about half of the growth rate in the same period last year, according to the bureau.

Han Changfu, minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said during the National People's Congress session in May that there would be no food crisis in China. "There have been good grain harvests for the last few consecutive years, the stock is abundant and food security is ensured," he told reporters.

Xia, the agricultural official, said that the Hefei city government planned to host an event in Changfeng county on Tuesday to mark the Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival.

During the ceremony, the government will help the farmers market their crops online and offline to food companies, Xia said.

In 2018, the Chinese government designated Autumnal Equinox, one of the events on the Chinese lunar calendar, as a festival for farmers to celebrate the harvest. It usually falls between Sept 22 and 24.

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