Heilongjiang charters trains for migrant workers

Updated: May 16, 2023 By Zhou Huiying in Harbin China Daily Print
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Xu Yongqing, an expert from Northeast Agricultural University, advises migrant workers on transplanting rice seedlings on a charter train to Fuyuan, Heilongjiang province, on Saturday. [Photo/China Daily]

Shortly after stepping off train No K5161 at Qianjin town, Heilongjiang province early on Sunday morning, Hua Yanfang arrived at Qianjin Farm and joined her husband, who had been hard at work in the fields for nearly 20 days.

Hua, 53, a resident from Xinlin town, Daxing'anling prefecture, was among 500 migrant workers who took the train leaving Suihua Railway Station last Saturday.

"I have come to the farm every spring since 2007," she said. "My employer has promised me a daily wage of 600 yuan ($87) for the work of transplanting rice seedlings.

"My husband can get a higher wage because he can operate the rice transplanter," she said.

"We can make over 30,000 yuan by the time we go home, having earned a large part of my family's income."

Setting off from Qiqihar Station, the train passes several large farms such as Jiansanjiang, Qianjin, Qianfeng and Honghe in one of China's major rice production areas before arriving at its final destination — Fuyuan, a county-level city on the Sanjiang Plain.

Given the climate in Heilongjiang, the best time for transplanting rice so as to ensure a good harvest is from May 5 to 25.

Since there are not enough local farmhands to clear the fields and transplant rice seedlings, groups of migrant workers move to the area for three weeks every year. Most of them come from rural parts of Suihua city.

Since 2000, when the China Railway Harbin Group introduced the service, chartered trains have transported over 1.8 million migrant workers to and from the rice production areas in the province.

In 2023, three chartered rail lines to Fuyuan opened at the end of April — one from Harbin, one from Qiqihar and one from Jiamusi — along with one fixed line from Harbin. They are expected to transport about 50,000 migrant workers by the end of May, according to the group.

Wang Miquan, 35, a farmer in Jiangchuan, a State-owned farm that is part of Beidahuang Agricultural Reclamation Group's Hongxinglong Co, said he had a good harvest last year thanks to the migrant workers.

"The sales volume from my 23 hectares of rice farmland reached 600,000 yuan," he said.

"I have hired seven workers this year, and I hope the transplanting of rice seedlings will be finished on schedule and I can receive another good harvest in the autumn."

The farm has 20,000 hectares of arable land where rice is planted, which needs a large number of migrant workers to operate the rice transplanters, transport the rice seedlings and work in the areas machines can't reach.

This year, migrant workers can get the chance to learn more agricultural knowledge during their trips as the group invited agricultural experts to give courses on the trains.

"With the continuous improvement of agricultural mechanization, the farmers have more demand for agricultural knowledge and skills," said Xu Yongqing, an expert from Northeast Agricultural University. "I gave a short lecture on the technology of straw biological fertilizer production and seedling substrate production in cold regions.

"For the special lecture on the train, the most important thing should be explaining the technology with language and methods that can raise passengers' interest and leave a deep impression," she said.

Lyu Hongfeng, head of Suihua Railway Station, said: "We welcomed the peak passenger flow the past weekend. To avoid disorder, we have launched a series of measures, such as building a shelter on the square in front of the station for migrant workers to rest separately, and setting up a green channel for migrant workers to check tickets."

He added that staff members and volunteers had been dispatched to provide services to the migrant workers, such as introducing travel information and baggage handling.

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