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Top agriculture accolade for Wen Jiabao

Beijing (UCAN): On October 2, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) awarded the Agricola Medal, its highest recognition, to China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, for his dedication in promoting food security and poverty reduction in China and around the world.

He was presented with the medal by the general director, Jose Graziano da Silva, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. 

This is the second time the award has gone to a Chinese statesperson. The first was to then-president, Jiang Zemin, in 1998.

However, Joseph, a Catholic farmer from central Shaanxi province, noted that incomes remain very low despite government subsidies. 

He said the costs of labour, fertiliser and animal feed keep rising, leading many farmers to become construction workers to make a living. Inefficient market mechanisms mean small profit margins, preventing farmers from investing in modern technology to raise productivity and improve living standards.

Joseph explained, “Wen is a popular premier among farmers. He has visited rural villages many times and paid close attention to our difficulties.”

Father John, who works in a rural parish in northeastern China, says the premier has tried to implement such farmer-friendly policies as agricultural tax exemption, medical services and an endowment insurance scheme. 

At the medal ceremony, the 70-year-old Wen pledged to seek steady growth in agricultural products and enable Chinese farmers to share the achievements resulting from the country’s rapid economic development and social progress.

However, Father John doubted whether these promises would be realised, noting that local officials often ignore the central government’s farmer-friendly policies.

“In order to make money, the officials deliberately abandon fertile farmland for years and let it become wasteland. Then they redevelop it to build factories or other real estate,” he said.

He also pointed out that many farmers receive little compensation when their farmland is confiscated by the government or purchased by developers.

“Since farmers know little about legal matters, they are helpless when faced with collusion between officials and developers. The central government has prohibited forced land acquisition, but its orders are not observed at the local level,” he explained.

The government claims farmers have become richer, but “this has not really happened,” Father John said. “They are comparing things with the past, not with farmers in other countries.”

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