Farmers kiss rice harvest goodbye

10:12, May 25, 2011      

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Severe drought is still haunting the rice-growing areas in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River despite recent rainfall and increasing releases of water from the Three Gorges Dam.

"My farmland was so dry I couldn't transplant rice seedlings into it," said Zhang Guozhou, a farmer in the Chengzi township in East China's Jiangxi province.

Zhang, who has 4.2 hectares of farmland in the township, made the remarks just weeks prior to the harvest of the early season rice.

"But I have nothing to harvest this time."

The fruitless cropland left him no choice but to do manual work in a nearby township to support his family.

In Chengzi township, all the 740 hectares of farmland were greatly affected by the ongoing drought. "It seems the early rice harvest in the town will come to nothing," Wang Jiayong, deputy mayor of the township, told China Daily.

"We are going to transplant the middle season rice in days, but it all depends on the weather. Without more rain, it will also come to nothing." Wang added.

The low water levels of the Yangtze River and Chihu Lake, which is an important water source for Chengzi, has resulted in a desperate plight for local residents.

"Even though we have enough money and equipment, there is no water for irrigation. The equipment is useless," he said.

More than 80 percent of the fishponds in the town have dried up.

"All the investment in my fishpond was lost. The fish all died," said Fu Yilan, a local fish farmer who has 6.6 hectares of pond. "And the authorities told me that my loss will not be compensated by government."

Agriculture in Hubei has also been seriously hit even though the Three Gorges Dam is discharging more water to its lower reaches. "The water level of the Yangtze River was only 10.9 meters, 6 meters lower than last year," said Zhang Liangjun, director of the drought relief authority in the province's Huangmei county.

The total rainfall this year was 160 millimeters, 20 percent that of the same period in 2010. "The watercourses used to rowing boats now have become roads," Zhang said.

Production of cash crops such as rapeseed had a large reduction this year. Also affected are about 16,700 hectares of farmlands for early season rice, accounting for 42 percent of the county's whole cropland planting such rice.

In addition, another 13,300 hectares for midseason rice would be hit if they get no more water before June 5, the last day for transplanting seedlings.

Source:China Daily
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