Drought and heat take toll on China's crops

Parched conditions now threaten production on more than five million hectares of farmland

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 4:36am

Serious drought and a persistent heatwave in central and eastern regions threaten harvests from more than five million hectares of farmland, and have already caused vegetable prices to rise.

The drought, which is worst in Hunan and Guizhou provinces, had also created a drinking water shortage for more than five million people and more than two million head of livestock, the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said yesterday.

It is unlikely to affect the total autumn harvest on the mainland because these areas account for a small portion of the total output. But for individual farmers, it means 100 per cent disaster

The persistent high temperatures had also helped pests flourish on nearly one million hectares of farmland in Guizhou, the Guiyang Evening News reported.

About 85 per cent of Hunan is affected by the drought, and one-tenth of the province is seriously affected, according to the provincial hydrological department. The rainy season there should have begun at the start of July, but rainfall since then has been the lowest in 64 years.

In Shanghai, the supply of leaf vegetables has fallen steeply because the month-long heatwave has severely affected their growth. The wholesale price of edible rape in the Jinshan district has doubled from last year, the Jiefang Daily reported.

In Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, where the temperature topped 40 degrees Celsius on most days last week, vegetables were scorched or suffered insect attacks because pesticides evaporated.

Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultants, said the drought should raise concerns, as it had in recent days quickly expanded from less productive Guizhou to the more important rice-producing areas along the Yangtze River.

"It is unlikely to affect the total autumn harvest on the mainland because these areas account for a small portion of the total output," he said. "But for individual farmers, it means 100 per cent disaster."

Hunan authorities said nearly 70 per cent of those affected by the drought were living in the mountains or under the poverty line. They faced acute drinking water shortages and their crops were the worst hit.

The National Meteorological Centre continued issuing a yellow alert for drought yesterday, forecasting no effective precipitation in drought-hit areas until at least tomorrow.

In contrast, the flood control and drought relief headquarters issued a third-level warning for flooding in the northeast, the mainland's rice-producing base, which has seen more 60 days of rainfall since late May.

Along the Songhua River, many large reservoirs and tributaries have swollen above the alert level. The headquarters warned that the area was highly prone to major flooding if large-scale rainfall continued or a typhoon struck.