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Premier Restores Public Confidence

Premier Wen Jiabao reassured the public on Saturday that the government will ensure supply and stabilize prices as the nation has achieved steady and fast economic growth for several years with good harvests of grain crops and rapid industrial growth.

Wen was addressing public concerns over price hikes after the country's consumer price index hit a 33-month-high of 4.4 percent in June. Several industries including catering and oil have started to raise prices, which have triggered complaints from the public.

To get firsthand information about the situation, Wen visited the Xinfadi farm produce wholesale market, the largest of its kind in Beijing, on Saturday morning.

Premier Wen Jiabao checks vegetable prices at Xinfadi farm produce wholesale market in Beijing on Saturday.

Pork vender Qian Guangping complained to Wen that rising prices had dented demand and cut his sales from 600 kg per day to 500 kg.

"I earn much less now. When do you think the price will fall?" he asked.

"As pig breeding has a production cycle, it will take some time," Wen said, assuring him that the government has introduced a package of policies.

"The key is to stimulate the enthusiasm of the farmers. So long as the policies are right, pork supply will rally and the price will fall," he said.

Guo Shuping, who was shopping for pork, said to Wen: "The price is a bit high. Lean pork costs 11.5 yuan per jin (half a kilogram). Even the butt costs 9.8 yuan."

At 10 AM, Wen went to the Wanfa Hengshun farm produce market in Xicheng District, which helps supply food to more than 40,000 people in the Sanlihe area.

As Wen spoke to Wu Guifang, he took an egg from her shopping bag and asked what she thought of the current prices. Wu said some vegetables had become expensive, but the price hikes were not huge.

Wen nodded and urged the market's management to ensure all deals are done in an open, fair and transparent manner. No one is allowed to hoard stocks to drive up prices, he said.

He said the current price hikes had been mainly led by farm produce and non-staple foodstuffs such as grain crops and pork. But there were a few market dealers seeking price alliances to rig the market and damage the interests of the public.

Wen said agricultural subsidies on seed, farming machinery and other supplies must be handed directly to farmers. He encouraged flood-stricken areas to restore farming as early as possible to secure autumn grain crop production, which normally accounts for three-quarters of the country's annual grain output.

Policies for supporting pork production must be seriously implemented, he said.

Wen has ordered local governments at various levels to have a clear idea of production, procurement and distribution, and stockpile daily necessities and ensure their proper allocation as necessary to secure market supply.

"The supply line for daily necessities should not be disrupted," he said.

(China Daily August 6, 2007)

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