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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 00:14 GMT
China farmers count cost of snow
By Dan Griffiths
BBC News, Xiayang

Mr Ding standing in snow
Thick snow is still covering Mr Ding's farm land
Millions of poor farmers in rural China are struggling to deal with the aftermath of the country's worst snow storms in 50 years.

Three hours drive west of Shanghai, in the village of Xiayang, the bad weather has brought local watermelon grower Mr Ding nothing but misery.

His home is a ramshackle hut on the edge of the village. The fields, where he has planted his watermelons, are covered by 2ft (61cm) of snow. His greenhouses have been destroyed.

"At one point the snow was up to my waist," he tells me. "Everything is going to be ruined."

And he is not alone.

"Everybody in the village has been affected," he says. "My friends, my relatives, we are all the same.

"No-one ever thought we could have so much snow."

Over the past few days prices have gone up - the snow has brought so many problems
Ms Tao

Despite three decades of economic growth many in rural China are still living on the breadline - one bad storm like this and they struggle to make ends meet.

At the nearby market it is business as usual, despite the snow. There are all sorts of stalls selling everything from fish to fly swats.

But beneath all the hustle and bustle, locals are worried.

The snow has led to transport bottlenecks. That in turn has meant shortages and rising prices.

Price worries

Ms Tao working on her vegetable stall
Traders have faced delays in supply and rising prices

Ms Tao's vegetable stand is a collage of bright colours - green and red chillies, maize, carrots, onions and tomatoes.

She smiles but there is no hiding her concern.

"Over the past few days prices have gone up," she tells me.

"The snow has brought so many problems."

Her husband says that lorries carrying food shipments have been delayed by the snow. He tells me some prices have gone up by as much as 30%.

All this just after a year when inflation reached its highest level in a decade. The government promised to make fighting inflation its number one economic priority.

The snow has made that battle harder to win in the short term.

It is a similar story in many parts of rural China - the weather has had a big economic impact.

Things are slowly getting back to normal and that should ease inflation worries.

But Mr Ding cannot get the thick snow off his fields.

"What am I supposed to do?" he says, shrugging his shoulders.

All this as China is supposed to be welcoming the Year of the Rat.

But for Mr Ding and millions like him in rural China, there is not much to celebrate.

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