A top agriculture official yesterday warned the lingering drought could affect the autumn grain harvest this year.
Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai urged agriculture officials to "take all measures necessary" to combat the drought that is plaguing a large part of the country, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website.
The persistent hot and dry weather has led to drought in 22 provinces, especially in parts of Northeast, East and South China, where large tracts of farmland have been affected, the ministry said.
By August 1, 110 million hectares of arable land had been hit by drought, nearly 2 million hectares more than in previous years, according to the latest statistics from the Office of the State Flood Control and Draught Relief Headquarters.
More than 7.5 million people, and five million livestock have suffered from a scarcity of drinking water.
Jiangxi, Heilongjiang, Hunan, and Jilin provinces, and the autonomous regions of the Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang are the worst hit.
About one-third of arable land in the provinces of Jiangxi, Heilongjiang and Hunan have been affected.
The drought "poses a grave threat" to the autumn harvest Sun said during an inspection tour in Jiangxi yesterday.
Jiangxi is experiencing a drought that is estimated to occur only once in 50 years, with 866,000 hectares of crops affected.
According to weather forecasts the dry weather is likely to last for some time, further exacerbating the situation.
Sun said the drought-stricken regions were the key grain production bases in China.
He called on local agricultural officials to find more irrigation sources and help farmers replant more drought-resistant crops like corn and potato to reduce their losses.
He said these crops could in turn boost live pig production.
The country's pork prices have soared in recent months due to a shortage of supply caused by a disease that has killed thousands of pigs this year.
(China Daily 08/10/2007 page3)