Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has urged officials in drought-hit areas to place "top priority" on relief work as agricultural stability concerns China's bid to revive its economy.
The fight against drought has to do not only with the safety of grain supply but also with the country's efforts to stimulate domestic demand, Wen said during a visit to central China's drought-hit Henan Province on Saturday and Sunday.
He said "It's of vital significance to the overall economy to boost steady growth of grain production and farmers' income" as China is in a key stage to cope with the global financial crisis.
Drought relief is a "very difficult task" at present as the lack of rainfalls continues, Wen said.
He told local governments to allocate relief funds at the earliest possible time, ensure adequate supply of farm tools, fertilizer and pesticide and subsidize farmers' purchase of machinery in pressing need.
Local governments are also urged to speed up construction of water control works, reservoirs in danger and irrigation projects.
Officials must go to the forefront of fighting the drought and technicians should provide support to farmers, Wen said.
During the visit, Wen stepped into crop fields and talked with farmers, encouraging them to build confidence in gaining a bumper harvest.
China experienced the most severe drought for decades. As of Thursday, 161 million mu (10.7 million hectares) of crops, 4.37 million people and 2.1 million heads of livestock were affected.
China has declared the highest level of emergency in response to the drought, employing artificial means to induce rains and allocating 86.7 billion yuan (about 12.69 billion U.S. dollars) as subsidies to farmers.
In addition, the central government has decided to earmark 400 million yuan to local governments for drought relief.
(CCTV February 9, 2009)