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Drought to Affect Rice Production: Official

China's rice production is expected to decrease due to the long and lingering drought in the southern part of the country, according to an official from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The official with the ministry's crop production department noted that it's too early to predict the exact loss.

But the State Cereal and Oil Information Center predicted that with the decrease of rice planting areas and with the bad weather,rice output will decrease to 168 million tons this year, down 3.7 percent over last year.

However, the center said the influence on the domestic rice market should be slight as the country has sufficient rice storage.

Since late June, a heatwave has plagued most of China, especially Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hunan and Hubei provinces, where temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. More than 6.5 million hectares of farmland in 11 provinces were hit by drought by the end of July, and most of the areas were for rice growing.

The official noted that the drought will affect the planting and growth of late rice. As for the early rice, which is ready to be harvested, the drought will have little impact.

In Hunan, one of the major rice producers in the country, farmers are harvesting premature rice with only hollow hulls caused by high temperature. Statistics show that more than 1 million hectares of crop land were hit by drought so far and the figure is going up at a speed of 70,000 hectares per day.

More than 7 million officials and farmers in Hunan have been fighting the drought, using 460,000 sets of mechanical devices andthe local government plans to allocate 10 million yuan in the campaign.

  The Ministry of Agriculture and local governments have spared no efforts in the fight against the drought. Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hunan provinces and Chongqing municipality have artificial precipitation technology to increase rainfall and have eased the drought to some extent.

  Rice is one of the most important grain crops in China, the planting area and output of which account for 29 percent and 44 percent of the total grain respectively.
(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2003)

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