Rural industry key to keeping poverty at bay

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25 January 2022, China: China will resolutely prevent a large-scale slide back into poverty for rural residents this year, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said last week. 

Zeng Yande, head of the ministry’s development and planning department, told a news conference on Jan 20  that China will keep consolidating its poverty-alleviation achievements through measures including the monitoring of vulnerable groups, developing rural industries and stabilizing employment. 

Last year, just over half of the central government’s rural vitalization subsidy was used to develop rural industries, and each county that has shaken off poverty has now cultivated two to three leading local industries. 

The per capita income of those who have escaped poverty has been increased by 2,200 yuan ($350) through the development of such industries, and more than 31.4 million rural residents found jobs in them last year, Zeng said. 

Yunnan province, which has the most counties to have shaken off poverty, has developed 26 major industries to increase farmers’ incomes, an official with the provincial rural vitalization bureau said. 

Growing morel mushrooms is a new business in Weixi Lisu autonomous county in Yunnan. Supported by China Southern Power Grid’s Yunnan branch, the county grows them on 8.7 hectares of land, with each household expected to earn 250,000 yuan a year from growing the mushrooms, a villager told Xinhua Daily Telegraph. 

China had more than 290 million migrant workers last year, while more than 15.6 million former migrant workers living in rural areas found stable employment at newly established industrial parks in their hometowns, Zeng said. 

A 373-hectare apple industrial park in Yuexi county, Sichuan province, provides 400 jobs for local residents as well as seasonal apple-picking jobs for villagers, Sichuan Online reported. 

During the harvest season from July to November, a villager can earn 70 yuan a day working in the park. 

The rise of rural industries has provided more ways to increase villagers’ incomes through employment, Zeng said. 

The annual per capita disposable income of rural residents reached 18,931 yuan last year, up 9.7 percent year-on-year, a growth rate 2.6 percentage points higher than that of their urban counterparts. 

As the prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides are still high, it’s important to promote high-quality agricultural products to ensure farmers’ incomes are sustainable. Agricultural cooperatives are expected to provide services such as planting and pest prevention for small landholders to cut their costs. 

The development of processing industries, rural tourism and e-commerce are some of the ways to boost farmers’ incomes, Zeng added. 

Liu Huanxin, head of the National Administration for Rural Vitalization, said late last month that China plans to spend 55 percent of the central subsidy for rural vitalization on promoting industries this year, up five percentage points from last year. 

The budget will be mainly used to fill technology, infrastructure and marketing gaps, and introduce more leading enterprises to upgrade local industries, Liu said. 

To prevent a large-scale slide back into poverty, it’s necessary to monitor those more at risk and provide targeted support, Zeng said. 

Yunnan has built a government aid platform that enables low-income households to seek help in education, medical care, housing and employment, the provincial rural vitalization bureau said. Nearly 170,000 people have applied for aid on the platform and more than 150,000 cases had been concluded by Jan 9. 

For those who fall into difficulties due to sudden illness or accidents, local officials will report to the monitoring system and offer allowances.

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