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The bitterest pill for the sugar industry

(China Daily)

09:19, October 31, 2011

Farmers harvest sugar cane in Shangsi county in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. As the country's largest sugar-producing region, Guangxi accounts for two-thirds of the nation's production with annual output of about 7 million tons. Liang Fuying / China Daily

Chongzuo, Guangxi - Despite the rise in the price of sugar nationally over recent years, life is not so sweet for China's sugar cane farmers.

The rising costs of labor and raw materials, limited arable land and outdated technology are squeezing profits and leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those working in the industry.

Ling Dongbiao, a 48-year-old who has been planting sugar cane since his childhood in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is a prime example.

"What I now earn from planting sugar cane is much higher than in 2002 or 2003, but my costs have also increased," he said.

Currently, it costs between 120 yuan ($19) and 130 yuan a day to hire a worker to chop or transport sugar cane. The figure was just 30 yuan five years ago.

Ling lives in a two-story building in Nanuo village in the Xinhe township of Guanxi's Chongzuo city, next to his 3 hectare sugar field.

He is one of the 1.31 million sugar cane farmers in Chongzuo City, which has produced more than 2 million tons of sugar annually since 2003. That's about one-fifth of China's annual output and has resulted in the place acquiring the nickname "The home of Chinese sugar".

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