Tag Archives: crops

Persistent Drought Starts To Threaten China’s Crops

Dried-up bed of the Xinba reservoir in Shilin County, Yunnan Province, March 22, 2012.

The persistent drought that has hit 13 provinces in southwest and central China is starting to have an adverse impact on farming, China’s drought-relief officials have indicated for the first time. The fear is that the spring planting on 4 million hectares of crop land is threatened by the shortage of water. Reservoirs, such as the one in the picture above, in Shilin County, Yunnan, have dried up, worsening China’s structural water shortages. Approaching 8 million people and 4.6 million head of livestock are short of drinking water, officials say, with the latest number suggesting the impact of the lack of rain is spreading with the drought now in its third year in some parts. Yunnan, Sichuan, Hebei, Shanxi and Gansu are worse affected. A widespread emergency relief effort is underway.

Footnote: The main cash crops in Yunnan, where the drought is most intense, are rice, maize and wheat. The province is also known for its tobacco and tea.


Filed under Agriculture, Environment

China’s Floods Hit Grain Harvest, Put Pressure On Inflation

Li Qiang, managing director at Shanghai JC Intelligence, puts some numbers on our observation that the recent flooding would hit the forthcoming harvests hard. With official figures saying that 400,000 hectares of farmland across the country have been destroyed, Li tells Bloomberg that he expects rice output to be down 5% and cotton by 5%-10%. The summer grain harvest fell this year for the first time in the past seven years. But the autumn grain harvest is more important as it accounts for more than three-quarters of annual production in normal years. The price of rice has already risen 15% on the Chicago futures markets since June 30. Cotton has been climbing for the past year, and is now up 26% in the New York market over this time last year. As Bloomberg notes, that will make Beijing’s 3% inflation target harder to meet. And it will require judicious releases from the government’s grain stockpiles to stabilize prices.


Filed under Economy, Environment

Snowed Under On The Farm

The return of snow and ice to southwestern Yunnan province, leaving clean-up crews struggling to cope with more blackouts, disrupted transport and stranded travelers, highlights both the fragility of China’s material infrastructure and the remarkable depth of its human resources to respond to a civil emergency on such a scale.

Meanwhile, the snow alert has been lifted in seven of the 19 provinces which have suffered their severest winter in more than half a century. Symbolic of the improvement, power has been fully restored to the main rail line between Beijing and Guangzhou, Xinhua reports, after 20 days of interruptions.

The scale of the disaster has been immense. Li Luguo, vice minister of civil affairs, said on Friday that 354,000 homes had collapsed, and a further 1.4 million damaged. That, as we have noted here before, is probably an underestimate. Reconstruction will not be complete until June.

The damage to rural livelihoods is even more immense. “Crops in the disaster areas were ruined en masse and people face serious livelihood difficulties,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said last week.

Some 70 million farm animals have died in the bad weather. Two fifths of the rapeseed crop has been destroyed and a third of the land used for growing vegetables has suffered severely from the snow and icy, according to Zhang Yuxiang, chief economist of the Ministry of Agriculture.

That amounts to millions of hectares of farmland. The affected areas grow the bulk of China’s winter fruit and vegetables.

Under those plastic-sheeted greenhouses you see all over is where much of that produce is grown. The have collapsed by the thousand under the weight of snow. Cabbage, broccoli, and similar winter crops and oranges and other fruit have been particularly hard hit. Crops not crushed have been frozen beyond resuscitation.

Beijing has been trucking food into the worst affected areas, as best it can, to alleviate local food shortages and using administrative controls to stop prices rising. The long-term inflationary impact on already surging food prices remains a concern.

Keep a weather-eye, so to speak, on northern China. It grows most of the country’s grain. This year’s harvest, though the spring crop is yet to be planted, is forecast to be about the same as last year, the state grain agency says — absent natural disasters.

Last year’s grain harvest was below normal because of drought. At least the all this winter’s snow, once it melts, will help alleviate a repeat of that.

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Filed under Economy, Politics & Society, Uncategorized