Communist Party and government authorities are mapping out policies to prevent what official advisers call premature and panicky reactions to the mainland's imminent accession to the WTO. An economic source in Beijing yesterday said retailers in main cities had reported a drop in sales of expensive items such as cars, colour television sets and computers. The source said consumers believed they could get superior foreign products at lower prices after WTO entry. He said the phenomenon had also been reported in inland cities as well as the coast. Officials are particularly worried about the impact of imminent WTO accession on the farming sector. 'The authorities are disturbed by reports that farmers in different areas have shown less enthusiasm in growing grain and other produce, and that some rural residents have temporarily abandoned their fields,' a party source said. 'The cause is fear that they cannot compete with cheap but higher-quality agricultural imports from the United States and other countries.' The source said Beijing was concerned that peasants afraid of losing their livelihood might flock to the cities. In the six-day talks between China and US trade negotiators which ended in the deal last week, Beijing had insisted the potential damage to mainland farmers must be kept to a minimum. It is understood that in circulars to different ministries, provinces and media units, senior cadres have stressed the full impact of WTO membership on consumers, farmers and workers will not be felt until the middle of the next decade. The national and regional media have for the past week run interviews with experts who emphasise that WTO accession will not bring about a big blow to the economy, certainly not in the near term. Economic analysts pointed out Beijing was anxious to fulfil the target of seven per cent growth this year. The goal would be disrupted if consumers, who had started to spend more this autumn, delayed or stopped purchasing locally made products in anticipation of an influx of cheap foreign goods.