Sichuan floods wreaking havoc on crops

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More than 110,000 metric tons of grain and almost 159,000 hectares of arable land have been destroyed by storm-triggered floods and landslides in Sichuan province.

"Ongoing rainfall has destroyed 99,333 hectares of arable land producing grain and 59,800 hectares of arable land producing cash crops. Total (agricultural) economic losses have surpassed 1.1 billion yuan ($180 million)," said Yang Wen, an information officer with the Sichuan provincial department of agriculture, on Tuesday.

Since late June, rainstorms have lashed the western, central and northern parts of the province, with the most severe storm occurring on July 7. Storms are expected to continue through this week.

According to the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs, storms have impacted 15 cities and autonomous prefectures, disrupting the lives of 3.4 million people over the past 10 days. Sixty-eight people have died, 179 are missing and 286,000 people have been evacuated. Total economic losses have surpassed 20 billion yuan.

"Storm-triggered floods and landslides have destroyed arable land, vegetable and fruit fields and irrigation facilities in major cities such as Chengdu, Deyang, Mianyang and Ya'an as well as the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture," Yang said.

Officials say the loss in grain will have a minimal impact on provincial grain supply because the amount of arable land producing grain has increased this year.

Prices for vegetables and fruits, however, have risen sharply throughout the province. In Chengdu, prices for a kilogram of cowpeas, mushrooms, winter melons, spinaches and peach have all increased significantly after the storms, said Mu Qin, a vegetable vendor in the Fuqin Farm Produce Market in Chengdu.

Meishan, located 68 kilometers - about an hour's drive away - from Chengdu, is a major vegetable producer in Sichuan. A kilogram of cowpea is sold for 4.2 yuan in Meishan, but in Chengdu is sold for 12 yuan a kilogram. "Although Meishan is near Chengdu, its vegetables sold in Chengdu have drastically risen in price because many parts of Sichuan have been affected by the rainstorm and need vegetables," said Li Yong, chief of the Dongpo district bureau of agriculture in Meishan.

Rainstorms will likely continue to impact the central and western areas of the province from Monday evening to Thursday, according to the Sichuan provincial meteorological bureau, which issued a yellow alert warning on Monday.

To cope with the new rainstorms, the Sichuan provincial government sent 21 teams consisting of provincial officials and experts in agriculture and geology to different parts of the province to help local authorities in disaster prevention and relief.

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