Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao has urged farmers to improve the quality of their agricultural products to stand up to competition following entry to the WTO, media reported yesterday. Mr Wen, a vice-premier with agricultural issues in his portfolio, admitted that China's entry to WTO would bring huge challenges to farmers, but said the rural sector could overcome the difficulties. Mr Wen, widely expected to replace Premier Zhu Rongji in March 2003, said: 'As long as we increase technological input, strengthen infrastructure construction and improve the quality and variety of agricultural products, I am sure we can move on to the next step.' He was speaking at a discussion attended by NPC deputies from Hebei province, where agriculture revenue is a main source of income. Mr Wen rejected claims that a failure by China's agricultural sector to compete with its foreign counterparts would lead to starvation in poverty-stricken rural areas. 'We are fully capable of solving the problem of food supply,' he told delegates. China has promised to gradually open its agricultural market in about five years, which analysts say will be a critical challenge for many living in rural areas. However, Mr Wen said improvements in the quality of agricultural products and reforms of the sector could give Chinese farmers victory over foreign competitors.