Hu urges dairy industry vigilance on symbolic visit

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 October, 2008, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao called for the country's dairy industry to step up supervision and be vigilant about product quality yesterday during a visit to Anhui province .

The president made the comment during a symbolic visit to Xiaogang village as part of official celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of reform and opening-up.

Xiaogang was considered by many as the cradle of the bold reform that transferred China from a rigid, isolated country on the brink of collapse into an economic powerhouse. Mr Hu's visit marked the historical reform and reconfirmed China's direction.

But the president seemed to be preoccupied with the recent tainted milk scandal, which has triggered a global food scare and seriously hurt the 'made in China' brand.

Visiting a dairy production centre in Anhui, he told officials that 'food safety concerns the health of the public' and must be treated with utmost diligence.

This was his most public comment yet since the scandal broke last month. 'We need to ensure that all products on the market are up to standard so that consumers don't have to worry,' Mr Hu said.

He then continued his tour to Xiaogang, in Fengyang county.

The reform began when a group of starving villagers signed a pledge in November 1978 to introduce the Da Bao Gan, a land privatisation plan that abolished the commune system by distributing land-use rights to each rural household in an effort to boost yields.

The bold move was considered highly controversial, if not taboo, since China was still under the grip of Mao Zedong's planned economy, but yesterday Mr Hu commended the 18 farmers for their pioneering reforms aimed at averting starvation.

'[It] served to help the country explore ways to advance rural reform and made historic contributions,' he said.

The president's visit came just a day after he had pledged at an Olympic awards celebration in Beijing to push for more reform amid uncertainty from a worsening world economy and a looming recession sparked by the subprime crisis in the United States.

Mr Hu pledged more funding for rural areas to help boost earnings for farmers and reassured them that the land distribution system that allows them to lease land for farming would remain.

But he stopped short of addressing the rural land ownership issue, which is a bone of contention. Ambiguity over land ownership offers the rural community little protection against illegal land acquisitions when corrupt officials collude with unscrupulous developers to take land from farmers for little or no compensation. Xiaogang will again be in the world spotlight when the country marks the beginning of the three decades of reform after the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Analysts have sought to play down the significance of the village's land reforms, saying they did not generate the momentum for the kind of rural entrepreneurship that has occurred elsewhere.

The land reform did lift Xiaogang villagers out of starvation but most still live under the poverty line and depend on state relief.