Farmers make one third of disposable urban incomes Farm income growth slowed to 6.2 per cent last year, with each farmer earning just 3,255 yuan on average, about a third of the average disposable income of urban residents, the National Statistics Bureau said yesterday. The bureau said farmers' incomes grew 6.8 per cent in 2004 to 2,936 yuan, the highest rise since 1997. Bureau commissioner Li Deshui said in Beijing that the sector's main problems stemmed from its weak economic infrastructure and its inability to produce sustained growth in both grain output and farmers' incomes. The bureau said value-added output in the agricultural sector increased 5.2 per cent to 2.27 trillion yuan last year, accounting for 12 per cent of gross domestic product. Peking University economics professor Song Guoqing said last year's increase in income was due mainly to farmers taking up employment in industry or finding part-time jobs. 'Though there was a slight rise in grain prices, it had less impact on their income,' Professor Song said. The 2005 harvest saw grain output rise 3.1 per cent to 484 million tonnes, while grain prices edged up 1.4 per cent compared with the 2004 average. The bureau did not release data about the incomes of farmers who had moved to urban areas to work. Professor Song said it was hard to increase farmers' incomes by relying on grain production because prices fluctuated on domestic and international markets, and higher output could mean a lower price because demand was stable. He said the previous year's 6.8 per cent income rise was based on a 26.4 per cent grain price surge and the move to cut or reduce agricultural taxes, factors which did not help maintain growth. 'Urbanisation, where farmers go to work in cities, is the ultimate way to ensure a better life for farmers,' he said. Shandong farmer Wei Yan said he had not noticed any improvement in the quality of his life because, as usual, he had no money left at the end of the year. The only bread-winner of a family in Rizhao village, Mr Wei grows wheat, corn, peanuts and capsicums, and breeds pigs on his 0.66 hectares of land. He also takes odd jobs on construction sites for about a month, earning 20 yuan a day. 'The total annual income for my five-person family was about 3,000 yuan. It was almost the same as the previous year. Life is really hard because I have three children whose education fees are more than 10,000 yuan per year in the city,' Mr Wei said. 'I want them to be well educated. It's the only way to get rid of the poverty in our village.'