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Drought, snow affect one sixth of China's arable land
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Drought and snow has affected about 22.9 million hectares of China's arable land, more than one sixth of the total.

A severe drought that began last winter had affected 11.1 million hectares in north China, said the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in south and east China, freezing temperatures and heavy snow and sleet hit 11.8 million hectares, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

More than one sixth of China's arable land, which stood at 121.8 million hectares in mid-2006, has been affected either by winter weather or drought.

By Saturday, drought has affected 1.89 million heads of livestock and left 2.43 million people without sufficient drinking water in north China, said the headquarters.

"The north is suffering from water shortage as the region's rain and snow declined by 70 percent this winter," said Zhang Zhitong, vice director of the general office of the headquarters.

Towns and cities are also facing difficulties as ground water levels fall in the major north China plains, he added.

"For instance, the ground water level of Beijing and Tianjin has dropped half a meter while some areas dropped more than one meter," he said.

A total of 120,000 wells in Hebei and Shanxi provinces in north China are unable, or nearly unable, to pump water, he added without elaborating on the impact on food prices.

The consumer price index (CPI), a barometer of inflation, rose to an 11-year high of 7.1 percent last month as snowstorms cut transport links and power, and pushed up food and energy prices.

Analysts said although agriculture prices went up substantially last month, it normally takes one or two months for the pressure to pass through to manufactured and processed food items, which will add pressure to inflation in the following months.

Food price rises may in turn spill over to other sectors, pushing up prices of other products and labor costs.

(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)

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