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Drought Hits Grain Harvest
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The area's worst drought in 50 years has affected nearly 2.1 million hectares of cropland, resulting in a loss of nearly 5 million tons of grain in southwest China's Sichuan Province.


To reduce losses, the provincial government is asking local governments at all levels to help farmers plant more late-autumn crops to make up for the shortfall.


The crops include sweet potatoes, yams and beans, Pan Xiaoru, an official with the provincial department of agriculture, told China Daily yesterday.


According to an emergency circular issued yesterday by the general office of the provincial government, Sichuan will have to plant 1 million hectares of late-autumn crops, 133,333 hectares more than last year, to reduce its losses from the severe drought.


The provincial government has allocated a relief fund surpassing 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) to different parts of the province so that each county's agricultural bureau can buy materials essential to the planting of late-autumn crops.


The materials include seeds of late-autumn crops, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Pan said.


To help villagers in drought-afflicted regions plant the crops, all employees in the province's agricultural sector will temporary give up weekends and holidays, according to Fu Zhikang, director of the provincial department of agriculture, in an interview with China Daily yesterday.


More than 1,500 teams consisting of 10,212 officials and technicians from the provincial agricultural sector have gone to drought-afflicted regions to direct relief operations and plant crops, Fu said.


Since last Saturday, more rain has fallen in different parts of Sichuan, mitigating the heat wave that has lasted more than one month in the western and southern parts of the province.


But drought is still severe in most parts of eastern and central Sichuan, Fu added.


It is common to see cracks in paddy fields, withered potatoes, rice that has become weeds and corn that has turned to firewood in eastern and central parts of the province, said Zhang Dong, an official with the Sichuan Provincial Disaster Relief Office.


According to the office, the month-long heat wave has resulted in droughts in 112 of Sichuan's 181 counties. Nearly 10 million people have difficulty in securing drinking water.


The drought has affected nearly 2.1 million hectares of crops in the province, 311,333 hectares of which will have no crops whatsoever this year.


The drought has caused losses of nearly 8.9 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion), close to 8 billion yuan (US$1 billion) of which will be shouldered by farmers themselves, the office said.


Neighboring Chongqing has also suffered from drought.


(China Daily August 24, 2006)

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