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Keeping the rural areas safe

By Jiang Xueqing  (China Daily)

10:46, March 26, 2013

During the rapid process of urbanization, the government must take measures to avoid damaging the countryside, a decline in agricultural output and the marginalization of farmers, said Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Party's leading group on rural work.

China imported more than 60 billion kg of grain in 2011 - including more than 52.4 million tons of soybeans. The country also imported 6.27 million tons of vegetable oil, 3.3 million tons of cotton, 2 million tons of sugar and 500,000 tons of pork.

China's self-sufficiency in food has dropped below 90 percent, according to Chen, speaking at an international forum on urbanization in Shanghai last year.

A large number of young farmers born in the 1980s and 1990s have left the countryside to work in the cities and few wish to return to their hometowns. Without a younger generation of laborers, the countryside is going downhill. During the past 10 years, approximately 900,000 villages have disappeared, said Feng Jicai, vice-president of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

As resources, labor and capital all move to city-based industries, the question of how the country can prevent agriculture from declining has been brought into sharp focus, Chen said.

In recent years, the government has found it increasingly difficult to control the price of agricultural products. One of the reasons behind the price fluctuations is the fall in the number of small piggeries and henhouses, which has resulted in increased dependence on the international market for food supplies.

The government must be prudent and prevent the decline of the agricultural sector and the countryside, because they form the foundation of the urbanization process. China has suffered severe food shortages during its history and has learned a good lesson. If the government does not devote more resources to the development of farmers and the countryside, the country could eventually encounter serious problems in feeding the population, said Chen.

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