Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says that the government will speed up agricultural tax reform this year.

  The central government will reduce and provide tax exemptions in poor counties and do away with livestock taxes across the country before the end of this year.

  The government will exempt agricultural tax for farmers throughout the country in 2006, two years ahead of schedule.

  National People’s Congress deputy, Wang Xinqiong, is to bring the news from Beijing to the villagers she represents.

  Jiang Zhongyi, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Agriculture, also applauds the central government’s decision.

  He says this move ends the country’s practice of levying taxes from farmers for nearly 2,000 years.

  Statistics indicate that the agricultural tax raises just 30-40 billion yuan, or 3.6-4.8 billion US dollars, annually, around 5 per cent of the government’s income.

  But before the reform, the local governments also levied additional fees of around 100 billion yuan, or 12 billion US dollars.