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Lingering drought in S China damages agriculture

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-07 16:46

CHANGSHA -- Wang Xiong has had the worst harvest in a decade due to the lingering heat wave and drought that has hit many parts of China this summer.

The 56-year-old farmer in Xinglong Village, Qiyang County, Hunan Province, is expected to reap only 10 percent of harvest compared with previous years as his 2 mu (0.13 hectare) of paddy rice, 1 mu of peanuts, 1 mu of sorghum and 1 mu of mung bean and corn all withered up.

Only a third of the 662 mu of paddy rice in the village survived the drought thanks to a nearby stream, which is expected to dry up within ten days if the drought continues.

Lingering drought since July has caused severe damage to agricultural products, leaving millions of people and cattle short of drinking water.

The current heat wave has swept 13 provincial-level areas across China, leaving about 5.95 million people and 1.72 million heads of livestock lacking drinking water, according to a Ministry of Civil Affairs report on Monday.

About 4 million hectares of farmland have been affected by the drought as of Monday, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

A total of 326 rivers have been cut off, 65 reservoirs dried up and 1,100 others with dead storage levels in Hubei Province, dubbed "the land of a thousand lakes," as of Tuesday.

In Hunan Province, which produces 13 percent of China's paddy rice, 913,333 hectares of farmland have been affected and 1.49 million people as well as 860,000 cattle lack drinking water, according to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

In Hepingxi Township, Mayang Miao Autonomous County, one of the worst-hit areas, about 45 percent of the affected paddy rice fields are expected to have no harvest this fall. Some 72 of the 87 ponds in the town have dried up.

To save his crops, Wu Minmeng, a farmer in Tongdao Dong Autonomous County, is digging a water channel under the scorching sunshine to divert water from a spring on the mountain top to his paddy rice fields beneath.

The paddy rice is currently at its booting stage and the drought is very likely to reduce the yields and affect the planting of the late paddy rice, said Chen Liyun, a rice breeding expert at Hunan Agricultural University.

In neighbouring Zhejiang Province, the drought has caused direct economic losses of 1.53 billion yuan (248 million U.S. dollars) and affected about 314,133 hectares of farmland, including 16,333 hectares that have been left unharvestable.

So far the drought has not caused the cost of rice to rise.

"A reduction of yields is likely to happen. Processing companies will adjust the price according to the market condition, "said Yang Xianping, who is in charge of Hunan Gaea Gem Group, a leading manufacturer for cereals and a listed company on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

"The supply of rice is currently abundant in the market," said Yang.

Even so, the government is ready to face the challenges posed by the drought.

The Chinese government has earmarked 1.65 billion yuan to fight the drought and more cash will be used to aid relief efforts, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Local governments and residents are trying everything to relieve the impacts of the drought, including digging wells and transporting water from reserviors.

In Kaihua County, Zhejiang Province, an anti-drought service team has sent 18 water pumps and nine immersible pumps to 11 towns, irrigating 733 hectares of farmland.

Anti-drought efforts will be hard work as the heat will last until the middle of August, with temperatures in some areas expected to hit 41 degrees Celsius, according to meteorological forecast.

The National Meteorological Center maintained a high temperature alert on Wednesday, as forecasters said some areas in Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities, as well as the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi and Fujian, could see temperatures climb to as high as 42 degrees Celsius.