Taxation Angers the Rice Farmers

Article excerpt

Carmarthenshire hill farmer Kyra Somerfield spent much of 2003 teaching at a university in Zhejiang Province, south east China. In the second of a three-part series describing the area and its agriculture, Kyra looks at rice and vegetable growing and how the Government assists the rural economy

RICE is the predominant crop. It is planted in long-established paddy fields, which are generally rectangular in shape, on the flat, silt, river plains and curved, terraced 'ladder fields' which descend between the mountains, all watered by irrigation systems skilfully controlled within earth banks.

In some areas it is possible to produce up to three crops of rice in a year, but one or two seem to be usual now.

The government distributes land usage rights, which are determined according to need and to the production quality of the locality. It also levies an annual tax according to seasonal crop yields and may be payable in cash or grain depending on the quantity necessary for national reserves. This taxation is a source of great anger in rural areas.

Citrus, tea, lotus and pearl- oyster farming are other significant crops in the region and almost all farms additionally grow a wide range of vegetable crops throughout the year to provide for their family's use and as extra cash income from sales at local markets.

The Chinese are extremely enthusiastic about food. Fresh vegetables every day are a menu must, and the varieties grown read like a Covent Garden inventory: sweet and white potatoes, bok choy, spinach, cabbage, radish, gourds, squash and melons of all kinds, beans, long and short, chillies, peppers, aubergines, yam beans, onions, leeks, asparagus . . . the list goes on.

Produce seems incredibly cheap to buy, but with a combination of low incomes and long tradition, shoppers will haggle and set one trader against another - walking away from the stall, then returning to renew the argument before finally obtaining the desired quality, quantity and value. …