Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yak Semen Subsidies

China first began experimenting with direct subsidies to farmers in 2002. Since then they have spread to every nook and cranny of rural China. It's sometimes surprising to see what gets subsidized. A mundane article about a meeting to discuss implementation of this year's fine breed subsidies reveals that Yak semen is one of the unusual items receiving subsidies.

The fine breed subsidy for livestock is a payment to breeding farms to buy or breed quality breeds of bulls or boars and pay for artificial insemination of farmers' animals at breeding stations using semen from these beasts. This typically means importing animals from north America or Europe like Holstein dairy cattle or landrace, yorkshire or duroc hogs to upgrade the breeding stock. At the meeting, officials claimed that the program has increased dairy cow productivity by 500 kg and shortened the time for hogs to reach a market weight by 5-10 days. They claim the artificial insemination rate for hogs has been increased to 60%.

The program began an experimental phase with dairy cattle in 2005. Coverage has since spread to hogs, beef cattle, sheep, goats and yaks. It has expanded from 15 pilot counties to 600 counties. Funding began with just 15 million yuan and increased to 990 million yuan in 2010 and 1.19 billion yuan this year. The newly increased funds will be used in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, and Xinjiang for beef cattle, sheep, goats and yaks.

There has been a yak breeding subsidy since at least 2008. A document from that year listed 15 yak bulls at a breeding farm in Qinghai Province that were covered by the subsidy. A Tibetan county document from 2010 gave instructions for applying for the yak breeding subsidy. The coverage of yaks seems to reflect the leadership's imperative to show it is spreading benefits to minorities like Tibetans to keep them happy.

Another example of subsidies targeted at Tibetans is subsidized insurance for yaks and sheep. In January, Gansu Province announced that its livestock insurance subsidy spending would be doubled by extending coverage to 600,000 yaks and 1 million Tibetan sheep. Owners have to pay 12 yuan to insure a yak for 2000 yuan, and 1.8 yuan for 300-yuan of coverage for a sheep lost to disease or disaster.

Qinghai also had subsidized insurance for yaks and Tibetan sheep last year. It covered 6 counties with special mention given to Yushu county which was hit by an earthquake.

The yak subsidy looks more generous than the dairy cattle subsidy. Gansu's subsidized insurance premium for dairy cattle was cut from 96 yuan to 36 yuan for 3000-yuan of coverage.

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