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Tremendous Progress in Poverty Reduction Since Reform, Opening-up

China has made tremendous progress in poverty alleviation since the country adopted its policy of reform and opening-up in 1978, according to a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Fang Cheng, speaking in a recent interview with Xinhua at the headquarters of the FAO, said that in the past 30 years there has been a substantial reduction in the number of China's rural poor population.

The number of people living on US$1 a day decreased from 490 million in 1979 to about 90 million in 2002 in China's rural areas, Fang said.

The country's poverty alleviation made giant strides especially in the period from 1978 to 1984, during which the population living in poverty decreased by about 300 million.

Therefore, it is fair to say that China has made the biggest contribution to the world's poverty reduction drive, said the FAO expert.

Fang attributed the great achievements to the sustained economic growth in China and a series of development policies for poverty alleviation by the government.

The remarkable progress in poverty relief by China was a result of successful agricultural reform, which promoted family-based land contract management and increased the State purchasing price of grain, oil crops and pork, said Fang.

Thanks to the reform policies, the country's agricultural output and income also improved considerably. The per capita income in rural areas increased by 90 percent during the period from 1980 to 1985.

Science and technology progress and increased investment in public undertakings in rural areas are two of the main driving forces behind China's agricultural development, said the expert.

The advancement of science and technology has significantly boosted the per unit output of grain, promoting corresponding investment in education and infrastructure in rural areas.

Statistics showed that the per unit output of corn, rice and wheat in China rose by 113 percent, 72 percent and 204 percent respectively during the period from 1977 to 2006.

Meanwhile, the figure was only 62 percent, 59 percent and 67 percent worldwide during the same period.

The FAO expert also praised China for its important role in keeping food prices stable on the world market.

China, which has long held a policy of remaining self-sufficient in grain production, has become a major factor in stabilizing the global grain price, he said.

The total output of grain in China reached 434 million tons in 2006, up 95 percent from 222 million tons in 1977, said Fang, citing a report by the FAO.

Meanwhile, the world's total output of grain grew from 1.123 billion tons to 1.935 billion tons during the same period, an increase of 72 percent, according to the report.

As the most populous country in the world, China has successfully fed a population making up about 20 percent of the world's total. The country's significance for the world's grain security is self-evident, Fang added.

The past year has witnessed a soaring global grain price due to oil price hikes and bad climate conditions.

The price of wheat, rice and corn grew by 40 percent, 48 percent and 80 percent respectively during the period from July 2007 to July 2008.

China, however, witnessed relatively stable grain prices which registered an increase of only a little more than 10 percent during the period, thus playing a positive role in promoting the recovery of the world market, he said.

The expert added that China is still facing many challenges in its fight against hunger and poverty despite all the achievements it has made, including shrinking farmland, climate change, increased grain demand and unbalanced regional development.

(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2008)

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