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City Acts to Ease Pork Crisis, Help the Needy

The Shanghai government will increase its pork reserves and improve needy families' social-welfare benefits later this year.

The initiative is to ensure a stable market supply and social equality despite rising food prices, Mayor Han Zheng said yesterday.

By the end of next month, the city plans to increase the pork reserve by 6,500 tons via purchasing pigs from other parts of the country, mainly from Henan Province.

Vehicles sending pigs into Shanghai will be exempted from road tolls when entering the city, Han said.

Considering the huge food price rises this year, the city is raising its monthly grant to urban residents who live under the designated poverty line from 320 yuan (US$42) to 350 yuan per head.

Minimum wages for local employees are also scheduled to rise from 750 yuan to 840 yuan per month.

Part-time workers should receive an hourly payment of at least 7.5 yuan, compared with the current 6.5 yuan.

Retired workers in the city will also enjoy an average pension rise of 150 yuan per month each - a larger amount than the national level.

Han's announcement came as it was reported yesterday that the average meat price in China fell for the first time in two months.

"The city government is trying its best to ensure a stable and safe food market supply with a relatively steady price for local low-income families," Han said, reporting the government's work to the Shanghai People's Congress.

Owing to rising feed cost and market demand-supply relations, prices of many foods, such as pork and vegetables, have gone up sharply this year throughout the country.

Pork prices are about 75 percent higher than a year earlier, which concerned not only ordinary residents but also high-level government officials.

Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this month that city mayors should be directly responsible for controlling and stabilizing pork prices.

Han also announced yesterday that the city will build more low-rent houses to expand the beneficiary numbers from 24,800 families to 30,000 by the end of this year. Local families with a living area of less than four square meters per head, people who suffer from serious diseases or those who lose their ability to work are now entitled to apply for a government-subsidized low-rent house.

Previously, preferential housing was only open to senior citizens who have no children, disabled people, model workers and families of martyrs.

The Ministry of Commerce said in Beijing yesterday that, thanks to the central government's and producers' efforts to increase supply, the average meat price fell nationally for the first time in two months last week. The price dipped 1.2 percent from the previous week.

(Shanghai Daily August 16, 2007)

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