"High and dry" breadbasket, Heilongjiang, faces drought

Updated: 2008-03-25 13:18

HARBIN - Heilongjiang Province in northeast China has spent 737 million yuan (about 100 million US dollars) to combat a possible drought and ensure a bumper harvest.

The money was used to build or repair 34,622 motorized wells, dig 315 small reservoirs, buy 6,057 pieces of equipment, dredge 3,006 kilometers of canals and undertake deep soil ploughing of farmland, according to the provincial commission of agriculture.

Several factors are threatening to combine to cause a drought in the province: scant rainfall, falling water tables and low water levels in rivers and many reservoirs. Heilongjiang, which is cold because of its high altitude, has been China's largest supplier of commodity grains.

Apart from cash crops, it mainly grows maize, soybean, rice and wheat.

Some 6 million hectares of arable land, or 51 of the total sown area, could face a drought during the spring ploughing season, which began last Thursday.

That could change if it rains, a local agricultural official said. But it hasn't rained much in the past six months. The provincial bureau of water resources said that precipitation was down about 50 percent from normal levels between November and March.

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