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Summer Crop Targets Threatened by Drought
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The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) warned Friday the lingering drought will damage the year's summer crop output, but analysts say the country's grain crop prices won't be much affected.

Nearly 15 million hectares of arable land have been affected by the drought triggered by high temperatures and strong winds, latest figures from the State Flood Control and Draught Relief
Headquarters revealed.

Drought has affected some part of China every day since the beginning of the year. Under the impact of global warming, the situation is likely to further deteriorate in the foreseeable future.

Currently, 25 percent more Chinese land is affected by drought than the average in previous years.

"Summer crops are in a crunch situation. If the drought continues in wheat producing areas, China will be unable to reach its summer crop targets," said a MOA statement.

A preliminary survey by the Wheat Chapter of the China National Association of Grain Crops in worst-stricken Hebei Province projects lower wheat output, the staple of summer crops.

"The decline will not seriously affect the year's grain reserve and supply. But the official forecast has not yet been released," an agency spokeswoman told Xinhua by phone, adding that similar surveys are under way in other drought-hit regions.

The drought started in northern China in late April and spread to Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Gansu, Hubei, Henan, Liaoning, Chongqing, Sichuan and Yunnan.

China's wheat output is expected to go down by 2.53 percent year-on-year to 101.8 million tons even if the weather turns favorable, said the China National Grain and Oils Information Center in its monthly update in May.

There will be no rainfall in the next three days in northern China and the Huanghe and Huaihe River Valleys where drought has wrought havoc, according to a Friday forecast by the China Meteorological Administration.

Given the government's massive grain crop reserve, analysts said the drop won't result in a grain shortfall or drastic price hikes.

Summer crops normally make up 20 percent of China's annual grain output which has grown for three straight years since 2003 to 497.46 million tons last year, up 2.8 percent or 13.44 million tons from 2005.

With the harvesting of summer crops only a month away, the Ministry of Agriculture has urged governments in drought-stricken areas to mobilize local farmers to fight against the extreme weather which has left nine million people and 7 million livestock short of drinking water.

More than 1.2 million farmers in Henan were mobilized on a daily basis in the first half of May, using 276,000 electrical pumps to irrigate land.

The Hebei provincial government has started to ration its underground water supply to meet production and domestic demand.
(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2007)

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