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China's rare drought to continue, summer harvest threatened
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09:52, February 07, 2009

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The worst drought in half a century in northern China will continue until next month, although it will be eased slightly by rainfall forecasted for the next ten days, according to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on Friday.

In March, rainfall in most parts of the wheat-growing areas in northern China is expected to be slightly less or close to normal. However, the wheat crops in Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Henan and Anhui will continue to suffer, said Xiao Ziniu, director of the National Climate Center (NCC) under the CMA said at a videoconference.

Workers of a power company help a farmer to irrigate the field in Wuhe County, east China's Anhui Province, Feb. 5, 2009. China raised the drought emergency class Thursday from level two to level one, the highest alert, in response to the worst drought to hit northern China in half a century, according to a State Council meeting. (Xinhua/Yan Ruipeng)

China declared the highest level of emergency on Thursday in response to the rare drought which began in November. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered all-out efforts to combat the severe drought in the country's vast wheat-growing area to ensure a good summer harvest.

About half of the total, or 78.77 million mu (5.25 million hectares) of the affected wheat lands have been irrigated in the nation's eight wheat-growing provinces as of Feb. 5, according to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Friday.

Soldiers of armed police force help a farmer to irrigate his field in Huainan, east China's Anhui Province, Feb. 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Yan Ruipeng)

The ministry said it would offer farmers subsidies on irrigation equipment purchase to aid the relief work. Prices of the facilities should not be higher than the market price for last year.

Buying water pump and the watering machinery will be subsidized to meet the urgent demand of the anti-drought effort, said an official with the ministry, stressing that the product quality should be insured.

The area of affected crops has expanded to 161 million mu by Feb. 6. 4.37 million people and 2.1 million livestock are facing drinking water shortage, according to data released by the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

People barrel drinking water supplied by the local government at Chengguan Township in Ruyang County of Luoyang City, central China's Henan Province, Feb. 4, 2009. The city had received a reduced effective rainfall since October 2008, almost 80 percent less than in the same period of previous years. The local government has allocated some 25 million yuan (3.65 million U.S. dollars) for drought relief and crops protection. (Xinhua/Gao Shanyue)

The scarcity of rain in some parts of the north and central provinces is the worst in recorded history, as the drought spanned from autumn to winter -- a weather trend not witnessed in years, according to Sun Zhengcai, the Minister of Agriculture. The situation in some areas is extremely severe, he said.

Lack of rain has created a layer of three-to-ten-centimeter of dry soil in many parts of northern China, Sun said.

As the drought will not be relieved in the short-run, more seedlings are likely to be killed as spring approaches, which could threatened the summer harvest.

Photo taken on Feb. 5, 2009 shows a dead wheat seedling in the farmland of Taiping township of Huining County, northwest China's Gansu Province. The county has suffered from serious drought since September 2008 with about 150,667 hektares of farmland and 184,000 people and 326,000 livestocks short of water. (Xinhua/Han Chuanhao)

MOA data showed more than 2.3 million mu of wheat seedlings in Henan, Anhui and Shandong provinces had perished.

This year's summer harvest became more unpredictable as Puccinia striiformis, or stripe rust, one of the most damaging wheat disease began to show signs of spreading across the nation, MOA warned.

The dangerous disease, which could cause losses up to 40 percent, has affected more than 11.3 million mu (753,000 hectares) of wheat in seven provinces, 4.6 million mu more than the same period last year. The northwestern Gansu and Ningxia saw the worst outbreak in 19 years.

Source: Xinhua

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