Minimizing drought effect

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, February 9, 2011
Adjust font size:

The four-month drought that has hit China's major wheat-growing regions in the north is a wake-up call for Chinese policymakers to step up efforts to protect agricultural production from extreme weather.

China's meteorological authority said on Monday that a cold front would cause rain to fall in some drought-hit regions over the next few days. Such a heaven-sent gift - if it does come - will be more than welcome to Chinese farmers, for whom the whole year's work relies on a good spring start.

A record bumper harvest in 2010 allowed Chinese farmers, for the first time in many years, to enjoy a rate of growth in income above that of urban incomes and of GDP. It is only natural that they aspire to another good year.

That is one of the reasons why Chinese leaders should be extremely concerned about the severe drought in northern China that has badly damaged the winter wheat crop and left the ground very dry for the spring planting.

If its impact on agricultural production cannot be minimized, the drought will more than likely put a stop to the ongoing rise in rural incomes, a precondition to narrowing the country's huge income gap.

Another reason why authorities have called for all-out efforts to address the effects of water shortages on agriculture is that any drought-caused reduction in grain output will fuel food price hikes and undermine the government's fight against inflation.

Although China's grain output rose 2.9 percent year-on-year in 2010 to 546.41 million tons, such a record harvest failed to stop the food prices - which account for a third of the basket of goods in China's CPI calculation - from surging 7.2 percent over the previous year. Obviously, it will be far more difficult to manage overall inflation if grain output falls this year.

The good news is that policymakers have come up with an ambitious water conservancy development plan aimed at raising China's ability to control flooding and drought within five years and an emergency relief and assistance program for the eight drought-ravaged provinces.

It is still hard to predict when the drought will end, so policymakers must prepare farmers for the worst and do their best to ensure a good harvest.

Meanwhile, as one of the latest extreme weather events that have helped send global food prices to record levels, China's prolonged drought should remind the international community of the increasing urgency of jointly preventing a worldwide food crisis.

Global food prices tracked by a UN agency hit their highest level on record in January due to weather-related supply disruptions in mid-2010, including a severe drought in Russia and abnormally wet conditions in Canada. The situation looks set to worsen this year after a massive snowstorm in the United States, floods in Australia and the severe drought in China.

The world economy simply cannot step out of the recession amid a global food crisis. The world's leaders must face up to this real risk and combat all kinds of extreme weather events to ensure food security.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comments

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from