The income gap between China's urban and rural residents widened last year, Vice Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie said on Thursday.
The average annual income of urban residents in 2006 was 3.28 times that of their rural counterparts, up from 3.22 in 2005 and 3.21 in 2004, Yin told a news conference on agricultural development.
The disposable income per capita of urban residents reached 11,759 yuan last year and that of rural people grew to 3,587 yuan, both up 6.7 percent after taking inflation into account.
"China's farmers have been getting rich fairly fast, yet still slower than urban citizens," said the official, who also admitted it was "very hard" to help farmers increase their income.
According to the conference, the growth rate of the income of China's farmers has risen by more than six percent for the past three consecutive years and hit 13 percent in the first half of 2007, the highest rise since 1995.
Yin said the income increase was due to the higher prices of farm products, the development of township enterprises and a package of policies and measures on boosting agriculture issued by the central government.
The country has been increasing investment in rural areas to narrow the income gap between rural and urban residents, and implementing the strategy of developing the western regions of China, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
A system that provides basic living allowances to low-income people is being set up to improve living and working conditions and will be expanded to cover all rural areas across the country this year from the current 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.