The rapid increase in wages and migration of workers to urban employment has made part-time farming the predominant mode of farm production in China. Journalists are calling it the "sideline-ization" of grain production (种粮副业化) which refers to the traditional classification of farming activities: planting grain was the main activity while commodities like vegetables and pigs were "sidelines." Now grain has become a "sideline" activity that is not very important to family income and gets accordingly little attention or priority from rural families.
A reporter who interviewed farmers in Anhui, Henan, and Hubei Provinces after the wheat harvest found that the part-time farming phenomenon is changing the way farmers sell their wheat. Farmers' time is too valuable to dry, transport and store their wheat. Instead, farmers now like to sell their wheat as soon as they harvest it to traders and brokers who come to the fields.
Villager Zheng Hailong recently sold 10,000 jin of grain to a trader at the edge of the field for about 1 yuan per jin. He told the reporter that he gets a low price selling to the trader but he can make the money back by working one day in the city.
Farmer Dong Xueyi says he hasn't sold grain to a purchasing station in several years. Farmers like to sell to traders who come to their door and don't demand high quality. Grain traders said the wheat purchase is like lightning; it's over in a few days. Farmers don't want to take time to dry and thresh their grain. They don't want to keep it for their own consumption either. They sell it all in one go.
Warehouse managers say small farmers rarely sell grain to them. The grain generally passes through the hands of 2 or 3 traders before it reaches a warehouse or mill.
The article says that this new mode of selling grain makes it harder for the government to use its minimum price policy to motivate farmers to plant grain. Most farmers don't sell grain to the grain stations that pay the minimum price and the price is not that big a motivator since grain sales don't contribute that much to family income now.
Farmer Dong says the price paid by private traders this year is .95 yuan/jin while the grain station pays 1.02 yuan (this year's minimum price) and has strict requirements on moisture and foreign matter. Dong says he will get 50 yuan less by selling to the trader but he's happy to do it.
Farmers interviewed in Anhui Province were often unaware of the minimum price and didn't care about the policy. Most farmers say they wouldn't be motivated by a price that's one or two fen higher.