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Farmers Need Safe Place to Keep Crops

People whose houses have been destroyed or damaged in the quake need a place to store grains harvested in spring as fear of a food crisis and rise in prices spreads.

Though the wheat crop was still standing on some fields when the quake struck, many farmers had harvested the grain, packed them in bags and dumped them in temporary barns in their villages.

Forty-eight-year-old Gao Qingfeng says she needs a secure place to keep her wheat because her two-story house collapsed in the quake.

The farmer in Xiaoquan township in Deyang City, where more than 10,000 people were killed, wants life to go on despite the devastation and pain all around. That's why her family started plowing the rice field just five days after the quake.

"The wheat yield fell sharply this year because of the sheet and snowstorm in January and February," says Gao. Usually, farmers in her town get 400 kg of wheat per mu, but this year the yield was 100 kg per mu.

That's why it's important that "we store the harvest in barns", she says. But getting makeshift barns is a big problem because tents will first be used to house the more than 13 million people rendered homeless.

Though some farmers prefer to store the spring crop to avoid paying more for food, Nie Zhenbang, head of the State Administration of Grain, says the government will try every means possible to buy the grains from the farmers.

"Irrespective of whether they are dry or wet, we need to get every particle into the State silos," Nie told local officials at the weekend. "The measure can help stabilize grain prices."

Before quake, about 2.09 million people in Sichuan were living below the poverty line and 5.17 million were part of the low-income group. Since the majority of quake victims are from these two groups, they are likely to save as much grains as possible to avoid paying more in the open market.

Some farmers in the mountains have ignored the threat of landslides and aftershocks and started returning from temporary shelters to their villages to harvest their crops.

"We have to," says Ding Xiaoshang, 42, of Nanba town in Pingwu county. "The impact has been so massive and we should not wait for help from the government only." Ding lost two of his relatives, and like his fellow villagers, is still waiting for tents, food and medicines.

(China Daily May 27, 2008)

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