Monday, March 10, 2003--CropChoice news-- DOW JONES
NEWSWIRES (AP): More than a year after China
joined the World Trade Organization, the impact on its
farmers has been less than expected in ways both good
and bad, a top government agricultural specialist said
Inefficient Chinese grain farmers were expected to
be hit badly by imports of cheap foreign crops. Yet
a small increase in China's corn and wheat harvests
- and higher grain prices on international markets -
meant imports were far less than expected, said Chen
Xiwen, who works for the Cabinet's Development Research
"Imported grain found it very hard to win in the
Chinese market," Chen said at a news conference
on the sidelines of the annual legislative session.
Meanwhile, labor-intensive agriculture such as ornamental
flowers and some fishing industries, where China's low
labor costs were expected to give it an advantage, haven't
benefited as expected, Chen said.
He blamed non-tariff barriers erected by importing
nations, including tougher hygiene and purity standards
for products such as shellfish. China will work with
farmers to ensure their products meet standards imposed
by importing nations, he said.
"We hope that when importing nations raise their
standards, they do so with the safety of consumers in
mind, not to block imports," Chen said.
WTO entry was expected to be both boon and bane for
Chinese farmers, whose farms are in general smaller
and are far less mechanized than their competitors in
With rural incomes stagnant and tens of millions of
surplus rural labor, a severe impact could have threatened
stability in the vast hinterland, which the government
has targeted as its prime concern in coming years.
About 800 million of China's 1.3 billion people are
still categorized as farmers. But with millions of farmers
migrating to the cities, it isn't certain how many still
derive their main incomes from agriculture.
Chen said the WTO impact had also been lightened by
policies such as tax rebates for exporting corn and
eliminating fees for distributing grain to other parts
of China. Chinese farmers exported 800 million tons
of corn last year, an amount far exceeding imports to
China, he said.
-Edited by Genevieve I. Soledad