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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 13:55 GMT
Chinese premier fails farmers
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has one big regret
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has admitted that after four years in office he has not managed to improve conditions for the country's 800 million farmers.

"When you are talking about one single issue that causes me the worst headaches, that topic is how to increase the income of Chinese farmers," he said.

Chinese farmer
China's WTO membership will make farmer's lives worse
"China's farming community ... has not seen a rapid increase in their incomes, and in certain areas they have even seen a drop," he said.

Incomes in the Chinese countryside increased by 4.2% last year, compared with an 8.5% rise in the cities, according to statistics.

Civil servants salaries have nearly doubled, state-owned enterprise employees had benefited by improved living standards, and even pensioners were getting more money now, he said.

"All these groups of people are happy with this progress," he said.

'It will get better'

Mr Zhu said conditions would eventually improve because of measures to reduce farmland, cut oversupply, and cuts to the financial burdens on rural communities.

"I believe that with all these efforts, the difficulties of Chinese farmers can be eased, but this does take some time," he said.

But he warned China's entry into the World Trade Organization would further worsen the problem.

"Agricultural products from the United States will enter into China's market on a massive scale, and then the price of China's home-grown agricultural produce will decline even further," he warned.

The prime minister was speaking at his annual meeting with the press in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, following the conclusion of the full session of parliament, the National People's Congress.

Mr Zhu, 74, is expected to step down at next year's meeting of the legislature.

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Howard Gorges, lychee farm owner in northern China
"There's not much support for agriculture and farmers are not producing what the markets need."
See also:

18 Feb 02 | Business
China and US reap economic rewards
07 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
China admits jobs crisis
28 Dec 01 | Business
US normalises trade with China
27 Dec 01 | Business
China publishes WTO terms in Chinese
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