The reform measures also increased incentives for peasants and farmers. A part of each plot could be used for private purposes once the quotas imposed by the government had been met. Two-figure growth rates in production were achieved and rural incomes improved.
In 1994, however, agriculture achieved a growth rate of only 1 %, the poorest performance in the economy.
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China air travel map The chief problems afflicting the sector are the low levels of investment in irrigation, drainage and soil improvement schemes and protection against floods and ground erosion. The situation is exacerbated by the inadequate commercial and transport infrastructure, as well as by a general shortage of fertilisers and seed. With national resources being channelled as a matter of priority into boosting industrial production, little is left over for investment in the countryside and rural incomes have fallen. The worsening financial predicament of agricultural workers is aggravated by rising prices, high taxation and levies. The result has been repeated protests to the government, which has recognised that a problem exists and intends to take steps to improve the situation.
Approximately three-quarters of agricultural land is used to grow cereals. In the south mainly rice is cultivated, while in the north wheat, maize, sorghum, millet and oats are the main cereals. Fruit is another important crop. Valuable products such as tea, tobacco, cotton, natural fibres, sugar cane and silk are either exported or sold to light industry; cultivation of these more profitable crops is increasing at the expense of staples such as wheat and rice.
The higher land of “Outer China” offers ideal pastures for cattle, horses and goats, but pigs, a vitally important ingredient in the Chinese diet, are reared in the central country regions, together with chickens and ducks.
Woods and forests occupy only about 13% of Chinese land surface, as during the 1960s large areas of woodland were systematically cleared to meet not only the demand for fuel but also to create more farmland. The soil lost its natural capacity to absorb water with the result that floods became more common in the lower reaches of the main rivers. In recent years forestation schemes have been implemented to increase the proportion of woodland, while the number of tree clearance projects have been considerably reduced.