China Improving Agriculture, but Has a Long Way to Go / Farm Scene

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WASHINGTON (AP) - China has made great strides in boosting farm production and, in the case of corn and a few other commodities, has been expo rting some of its surplus in competition with U.S. farmers.

But a new report by the Agriculture Department says China has a long way to go before shifting over to the kind of ""capital intensive'' agriculture that is so familiar to American farmers.

However, said the department's Economic Research Service in its report last week, China has increased its use of farm machinery and chemical fertilizers in recent years, which helped produce bumperharvests in 1984.

With more than 1 billion people, China is still looked upon as a potentially rich market for U.S. farmers, despite China's recent development as an agricultural exporter.

One reason for optimism is China's upbeat programs to increase livestock production, which eventually could lead to more sales of U.S. feedstuffs. But China has other problems to overcome before that happens.

""Expansion of energy supplies is a top national priority, but it will take many years to solve deficit problems, and rural areas will be energy short again in 1985,'' the report said.

One of the big changes in Chinese farming is the use of tractors. Prior to 1979, farmers were forbidden to own tractors. But policies changed, and by the end of 1984, 68 percent of China's tractors- estimated at 4.1 million - were owned by rural households.

The tractor total included only 857,000 large or medium-size tractors. The remainder were small, hand tractors that are useful in the small plots tilled by Chinese farmers.

Comparatively, the 1982 U.S. census showed American farmers had about 4.5 million tractors, not counting the small hand or garden types of machines popular in China.

""Demand for energy has risen sharply because of the increased use of tractors and trucks in agricultural production and the expanded use of pumps for irrigation and drainage,'' the report said.

Other pressures on China's energy resources include the demand for transportation service in rural areas, and the expansion in rural industries.

""Likewise, population growth and the increased use of televisions, electric fans, refrigerators and washing machines add to the general energy requirement,'' the report said.

Currently, more than 40 percent of China's rural population lives in villages without electricity. …