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China races extreme weather for wheat harvest
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20:16, June 10, 2009

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China is racing extreme weather including hail, heavy rain and strong winds to harvest wheat.

As of Tuesday, 57.3 percent or nearly 13.3 million hectares, had been reaped, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Heavy rains hit central and eastern parts of the country between Sunday and Tuesday and delayed the harvest of wheat," the ministry said on its website Wednesday.

Main wheat producers in Henan, Shandong and Hebei Provinces were summoning harvesters, sending weather messages to the mobile phones of farmers and firing chemical-laden shells into the clouds to reduce the effects of extreme weather.

Storms claimed at least 60 lives in different parts of the country since the beginning of this month as the country entered its main flood season which ends in August.

The National Meteorological Center warned of extreme weather including typhoons, heavy rains, high temperatures and drought for this year which could result in severe damage.

Wheat and corn on more than 2,000 hectares in Pingshan County, Hebei Province, was destroyed by a hailstorm Monday and crops on another 3,200 were damaged.

"Hail was as big as walnuts, breaking several windows of my house," a farmer named Feng Cuishu recalled. Farmers were having to harvest crops which fell over in the storms by hand, then reseeding fields.

Shandong Province, the second largest wheat growing area after Henan Province, fired 1,084 shells and 58 rockets with chemicals into the clouds Friday and Saturday to make them rain instead of form hail.

Shandong summoned back 21,000 harvesting machines that went to work in other provinces and hired another 5,500 machines from neighboring areas to speed up the harvest. There were a total of 53,747 combines working on Shandong's farms Tuesday afternoon, the provincial agricultural department reported.

In Linyi City, Shandong, 6,000 combines were racing bad weather to harvest wheat. Local police and the agricultural machinery bureau set up patrolling groups to maintain order.

In Henan, the country's largest wheat producer, accounting for a quarter of the total wheat output, 81.5 percent of the summer wheat had been reaped as of Tuesday.

"Rains over the past few days have delayed the harvest and led to a rise in harvesting costs, which almost doubled," said Wang Dianrang, agricultural chief of Huaxian County in Henan.

In Shangqiu and Kaifeng of Henan, where 22 people died as rainstorms and hail occurred between last Wednesday and Friday, local governments were sending officials and militia to harvest fallen wheat which can't be reaped by machines.

The good news is that the weather will be fine between Wednesday and Sunday in most wheat growing areas, said the Central Meteorological Observatory.

China produced 528.5 billion kg of grain last year, posting an increase for the fifth consecutive year. Henan alone harvested 30.6 billion kg of wheat last year, breaking its own summer grain harvest record five years in a row.

The country is expecting a bumper grain harvest this summer, despite the impacts of extreme weather.

Source: Xinhua

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