Premier Li Keqiang assured farmers of government agricultural subsidies and encouraged them to improve productivity during a visit to the rural suburbs of Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on July 9.
Li walked along a muddy footpath in a rain shower to see sugarcane fields in Chongtao village, where he asked local farmers details about sugarcane planting and price fluctuations. He also learned about the farmers’ living conditions and asked if they received government agricultural subsidies.
“Sugar is a necessity for the people. Your hard work is indispensable. The government will assist you by providing cheaper agricultural means of production and maintaining sugar prices at a proper level,” Li was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.
He encouraged the farmers to improve production capacity, initiate more agricultural cooperation, lower production costs and plant good varieties of sugarcane to improve the quality of their product.
“The government will take concrete action to protect sugarcane farmers’ interests, which not only assists farmers, but also safeguards consumers’ interests,” he said.
Li also visited the neighboring mountain village of Tanliang, where he talked with dozens of residents under a large tree after inspecting their fields.
“Is it hard for you to work as migrant workers?” he asked.
One villager replied, “Harvesting sugarcane is hard work but we can easily find a job within 20 minutes walking and make 150 yuan ($24) a day.”
Li responded, “It saves time and money if you can find a job near your home. You can have more time to take care of your family. ... Despite our hard physical work, we should always maintain hopes in our hearts for a bright future.”
The villagers said access to water and poor roads are two headaches for them. “We hope to use running water and walk on asphalt roads one day,” they said.
Li told Guangxi Party chief Peng Qinghua and Guangxi governor Chen Wu, “I give you two the responsibilities of solving the two problems of villagers.”
“I will remember your difficulties and we will solve your problems together with the government’s subsidy and your joint efforts,” he told the villagers.
Peng said Li’s visit highlighted a clear direction for Guangxi’s poverty relief work and agricultural production - that a range of employment near people’s homes and infrastructure construction are both necessary to improve people’s livelihoods.
Guangxi has 49 impoverished counties and about 7.9 million of its 50 million people live below the national poverty line.
Yu Jianrong, a senior researcher of migrant workers at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “Finding a job near home is an ideal choice for surplus rural laborers and a characteristic for the urbanization of towns and counties.
“Guangxi should promote sugar-processing industries at regional sugarcane planting centers and provide more stable jobs for rural laborers. Creating jobs is the beginning of urbanization and will boost local economic growth in a more balanced manner.”
Zhang Jun, a researcher of agriculture modernization with CASS, said, “Providing running water and building roads to villages scattered far from each other across a vast area of mountains is a very costly and unrealistic endeavor.”
“It is absolutely right for Premier Li to encourage the farmers to participate in agricultural cooperatives and to improve production efficiency,” he added.
“More laborers can shift from backward farm work to become new migrant workers and new residents of cities as the government reforms its household registration system and prepares other welfare institutions for newcomers.
“By then, a small group of farmers will become professional agricultural workers and their living conditions will be remarkably improved. But the government has a lot to do in this process, including creating new jobs and promoting collective agricultural cooperation production and improving laborers’ skills.”
Yang Huihong contributed to the story.