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Chinese farmers surf Internet to sell oranges
Updated: 2006-03-12 14:38

CHENGDU -- Surfing Internet at dusk has become a daily routine for Luo Mingjun, a 52-year-old farmer in southwest China's Sichuan Province, though he is still clumsy with the mouse.

People may be surprised to learn the farmer got a good bargain selling oranges through the Internet in November. However, observers of rural China said the number of farmers like Luo is growing.

Farmers in the relatively rich villages along the coastline have been seeking agricultural technologies and market information via the Internet, although computers and the Internet are still novelties for most of China's 900 million farmers.

The central government has decided to step up the construction of an information network in rural areas and provide access to telephone for every village and access to the Internet for every town in the coming five years.

Luo Mingjun, the owner of an orange orchard of two hectares, got a Pentium III computer as a prize from the county government of Pengshan to encourage the plantation of oranges.

Last year, Luo happened to find a strong national market demand for oranges while surfing the Internet. He spread the message among local farmers, who then consolidated their position and successfully raised the wholesale price from 7 U.S. cents per kg to 15 cents.

"We made a good deal thanks to the information on the Internet, " Luo said.
Luo said villagers were very grateful to him, and some were considering buying their own computers.

"We offer farmers computers in the hope that they can enjoy and benefit from information technology. They act as bellwethers and others will follow suit," Li Wanwen, director of the bureau of science and technology in Pengshan.

Pengshan County has set up a website, www.pengshan.net, to market its farm produce. Oranges of the county have become popular on the market with the advertisement on the website.

However, Li said some remote villages in the county do not even have access to telephones, much less the Internet. "We are planning to deal with it in the near future," he said.

In Kaixian County of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, farmers receive short messages on agricultural technology and information on their mobile phones from the local government.

However, among the 111 million netizens in China, only a small percentage are farmers. There are 9,200 computers in Pengshan County that are connected to the Internet, but only 156 belong to farmers, according to Li Wanwen.

"The central government has realized that it is almost impossible to build a new socialist countryside without the participation of farmers, who are the owners of villages," said Li Yingsheng, professor with China People's University.

"To arm farmers with science and technology is key to the success of the campaign of building a new countryside," the professor said.

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