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'Good harvest' likely despite severe drought
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A good summer harvest can still be expected despite the worst drought to hit the country in half a century thanks to the government's efforts to supply irrigation to the dry fields.

A senior anti-drought official told a press conference yesterday that farmers could still expect a good summer crop because anti-drought measures have yielded results.

"The food supply in the country will remain unchanged," said E Jingping, head of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

But he warned that the situation in the wheat-growing areas could turn "very serious" if there was no rain in the next 15 days.

The drought has left more than 40 percent of the country's wheat fields parched, especially in the major breadbasket of Central and North China. The situation is especially severe in eight provinces - Hebei, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi and Gansu.

The dry spell poses a threat to seven other provinces and regions, too.

Till Monday, about 24 million mu (1.6 million hectares) of farmland had recovered from the drought, but 136 million mu was still under the grip of the dry spell.

Wheat prices have risen in the past two weeks over fears of a poor harvest. The grain's delivery price for March peaked at 2,041 yuan (US$299) a ton at Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange in Henan on Thursday, up 6 percent from the last trading day before Spring Festival.

The losses caused by the drought would be reduced substantially if the farmlands can be irrigated properly, E said.

More than 60 percent of the winter wheat fields in the eight provinces have been irrigated, and most of the drought-hit plots are likely to get enough water in 10 days.

The government has taken steps to ensure people in the drought-hit areas have access to water to meet their basic needs. And it has been providing drinking water to 1.55 million people.

A 350-million-yuan special subsidy has been sanctioned to farmers to help them combat the drought. Apart from that, the government is diverting water from the Yangtze and Yellow rivers to Henan, Shandong and Jiangsu to irrigate the parched fields.

The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) has forecast that the drought-hit areas are likely to get moderate rainfall of about 2-4 mm from today, while Hebei and Shandong are expected to receive 5-10 mm.

CMA chief Zheng Guoguang said there was still uncertainty over the weather in spring. "The weather can become worse than we think, and we must be fully prepared," he said on CMA's website.

(China Daily February 11, 2009)

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