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Farmers want better services to reduce risks

DATE:2013-12-03       SOURCE:Xinhua News Agency

ZHENGZHOU, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Liu Xueyou, a farmer in central China, suffered losses of 300,000 yuan (47,619 U.S. dollars) last year due to counterfeit wheat seeds he bought on the advice of a so-called "technical consultant" with an agricultural materials company.


It was the second time Liu suffered losses due to counterfeit seeds. In 2009, he faced losses of nearly one million yuan due to counterfeit seeds. Another grain farmer like him committed suicide that year because of the counterfeit seeds.


"We want improved services and a sound market. Government administration is especially important," said the 51-year-old Liu, a farmer in Xixian County in Henan Province.


Liu began renting farmland from other villagers in 2000. Later, he set up an agricultural cooperative with others. The cooperative's total farmland hit 10,000 mu (666.7 hectares) at the end of last year.


Chinese farmers like Liu have called for better government and social services to reduce risk as their plantation areas expand with much of the rural population migrating to cities for jobs. The country is encouraging the development of intensive agriculture, rather than the household-based model that was adopted starting in the late 1970s.


Counterfeit seeds, fertilizers and pesticides can bring heavy losses to large-scale farmers. The country has launched crackdown campaigns in recent years to tackle the problem.


A campaign launched in 2012 resulted in the confiscation of 33,000 tonnes of fake or substandard agricultural production materials across the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.


Counterfeit seeds are just one of the risks facing big grain growers in China. Disasters, such as drought and floods, financing difficulties and a shortage of talented workers have also affected agricultural production.


A 2012 drought destroyed more than 6.7 hectares of the crops planted by Chen Xinwei, another farmer in Xixian, as the farmland he rented had no irrigation facilities.


Without insurance, farmers have to bear the losses caused by drought.


"Villagers say big grain growers are gambling. I also feel like a flier in the air without a safety belt. Any fall means bankruptcy," said Liu.


The large-scale plantation of crops demands more investment due to the increasingly high costs of agricultural materials such as fertilizers and rental fees.


In addition to poor infrastructure and unpredictable natural disasters, financing and insurance systems need to be improved and promoted in rural areas, according to He Zefu, an agricultural official in Fuling District in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.


With more intensive agriculture, a shortage of professional talent is also a problem.


Two college graduates rented 0.26 hectares of farmland and cultivated edible fungus with an investment of 120,000 yuan, but they left and went back to cities after the project failed, said Yu Denghe, a farmer in Fuling District.


College graduates could be successful after a period of gaining experience, but it would be a pity if rural areas fail to attract them, said Han Guokai, deputy head of the agricultural bureau of Huaxian County in Henan.


It is vitally important for the government to perform well in its role and serve the new agricultural management bodies, experts say.


"The tangible hand of the government and intangible hand of the market should cooperate with each other to establish an improved, diversified agricultural service system," said Cai Shizhong, a researcher with the Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences.


The government should do more on investment in basic facilities and the surveillance of agricultural product quality, while leaving services that can be solved by the market to the market, said Cai.


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