• Tending to farms left to old people in China

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    CHONGQING: In Tieshiya village, farming is mostly left to the over 60’s as about a third of its population have gone to work in towns or cities.

    Villager Zhou Douquan is worried, very worried. “Farmers make little profits from their land. Most villagers under 40 have left for other jobs or are pursuing education,” he complained.

    The question of who will plant the crops in the future troubles many rural areas, but was answered by a central rural work conference which ended on Tuesday.

    China will train more new-type professional farmers as part of rural reform and agricultural modernization, said a conference statement.

    The training will be included into the practical talent-training project. New measures will be made to attract agricultural college graduates to the countryside.

    About 260 million former residents of the countryside are now migrant workers. They generally leave their land to their parents, relatives or rent it to others.

    The percentage of over 50’s in the rural population shot up from 18.1 percent to 32.5 percent between national agricultural censuses in 1996 and 2006. If the current trend continues, the number may break through 50 percent by 2016, when the third census is expected to be carried out.

    “Just who will meet the challenge of agricultural modernization and feed the Chinese people is a real problem,” said Liu Jun, an agriculturalist at Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

    To ensure the food supply, the first problem to be solved is how to breed a new generation of professional farmers, said Xia Zuxiang, a senior agricultural official in Chongqing.

    The key, according to Xia, lies in making agriculture profitable, and that is a question of scale.

    The household farming model in which individual households make small profits from small pieces of land contrasts unfavorably with one or two months’ income from a job in a city.

    The time has come to complement the traditional structure with new rural production bodies, such as big specialized farms, cooperatives and industrialized enterprises, to increase farm income.

    These will be the major forces in agricultural production, said Han Yijun, professor at China Agricultural University.

    By the end of 2012, the number of specialized and big household farms with a farming area of more than 100 mu (6.67 hectares) exceeded 2.7 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

    PNA/Xinhua

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