Tag Archives: snow

Satellite Image Of Snow On North China Plain

How lightly it has been snowing on the drought-afflicted North China Plain is shown by this satellite image taken in the early afternoon of Feb. 14th by the China Meteorological Administration‘s FY3B’s meteorological satellite. Snow cover is indicated by the areas in blue.

The plain only got its first snowfalls of the season this month, a light dusting despite extensive cloud-seeding. No more rain or snow is in the forecast for the next few days. The drought continues unalleviated. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, at the end of a three day visit to Shanxi, called for preparations for a long-term fight against drought.

Update: Peversely, barely 750 miles away the east coast of the Korean peninsula has had days of record snowfalls, with rescue helicopters being needed to drop food to cut-off villages.

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Despite First Snows, Drought Outlook Worsens On North China Plain

The snows in Henan have spread to Beijing, with the capital getting its latest first snowfall of the season in 60 years. Snow and sleet have also been falling in Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan and Anhui. But it is too little too late to do much to alleviate the drought across the North China Plain that has persisted since October and is reckoned to be the most serious in six decades. Worse the official forecast is for the abnormally dry weather to continue for the foreseeable future. If it lasts into spring, as the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has warned, the winter wheat crop due to be harvested in June will be at risk.

The North China Plain grows more than two-thirds of China’s wheat. Authorities are stepping up drought relief efforts, saying they are throwing $1 billion in all at the emergency and seeking ways to increase the output of rice, which is grown mainly in the south of the country, to offset the potential decline in northern wheat production. The State Council has approved higher support prices for rice farmers, following a similar increase earlier in the week for wheat farmers. Grain prices will continue to rise making the fight against inflation even tougher. A serious failure of China’s wheat crop would have marked ramifications for world commodity markets. (Update: World Bank says it expects “volatile, higher than average grain prices until at least 2015”.)

To give a sense of the scale of the impact of the drought on the wheatlands of the North China Plain, acreage equivalent to half the size of South Korea has been damaged by the lack of rain fall. Meanwhile nearly 3 million people there face shortages of drinking water.


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Making Snow In Henan

You can’t cloud seed to induce rain- and snowfall without clouds. Now it has started snowing, albeit lightly, in Henan on the drought-parched North China Plain, the cloud seeders can set to work across the province. Those above are at Luoyang. No nation is more enthusiastic about using anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers to blast the sky with silver iodide.

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Harsh Winter Weather Threatens China’s Inflation Fight

The feared-for harsh winter is arriving. The bitter cold front that has enveloped the north is sweeping southwards, covering parts of southern China with snow and  threatening central and southeastern regions of the country with blizzard conditions. This cold snap may pass in a few days but the question is what damage the forecast return of extremely cold weather in January and February will do to farming, and thus the battle against the food-price-driven part of inflation.


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Beering Up

Beer companies tend to start off as, well, small beer. But around the world there is a history of consolidation of what tend to be fragmented industries to create national and international brewing giants. China is no more immune from that cycle than anywhere else. The six largest brewers in the country now account for more than half the volume of domestic beer sales. The other 500-plus share the rest.

The number two brewer, Hong Kong-listed Tsingtao Brewery is well beyond the small-beer phase. It has a seventh of the Chinese market and international recognition that way exceeds that of the domestic market leader, Snow, a joint venture between state-owned China Resources and the international brewing behemoth SABMiller. Snow has a sixth of the Chinese market, which, at 43 billion liters a year consumed, is, inevitably, the world largest in sheer volume. Tsingtao’s 1.87 billion yuan ($281 million) acquisition of Shandong Xin Immense Brewery — Silver Wheat is its beer you might recognize — is just another turn of the consolidation wheel, and Tsingtao’s third acquisition in two years. In the past 15 years, Tsingtao has gone from four breweries to more than 50.

Shandong Xin is the second largest brewer in Shandong behind Tsingtao itself. It will give Tsingtao 55% of the Shandong market, one of the biggest local markets. Domestic brands dominate across the country, in part thanks to a long legacy of protectionism that has only recently eased.

Less than 30 million liters a year of beer are imported, accounting for less than 1% of consumption, although imports jumped 44% last year, with German and Mexican brews accounting for more than half of all imports. A decade ago, foreign brewers abandoned a failing strategy of trying to establish niche premium brands in favor of joint ventures with local producers of the cheap lagers and beers that are overwhelmingly most popular. Apart from SABMiller, Japan’s Asahi Brewery owns 20% of Tsingtao (renewing historical ties between both partners’ predecessor companies) and Denmark’s Carlsberg raised its stake in Chongqing Brewery to 30% in June.

Chinese drink barely five liters of beer a year on average. The world’s thirstiest beer drinkers, Germans, quaff more than 100 liters a year each. Consumption per capita in China is less than half the average levels found in rich countries. Even though in the past couple of years the growth of the market has slowed to 5% a year from the 10% a year seen earlier in the decade, perhaps due to exceptional circumstances — economic slowdown, Sichuan earthquake and severe cold and wet weather — that suggests there is scope for the market to continue to grow and to move up market. At least, until it reaches the next inevitable phase of the industry cycle when wealthy young urbanites cut back on drinking beer in favor of wines and spirits and artesian microbreweries emerge to re-fragment the market.


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North China’s Cold Snap

Beijing may have been blanketed by the heaviest snowfall in half a century on Sunday, but it is more an inconvenience than anything and not as bad as the cold snap two years ago that caused power outages and transport chaos. A bigger concern is the potential damage to crops across northern China since the cold weather hit in earnest more than 10 days ago.

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Heavy Snows Move South

Beijing’s earlier than usual snowfalls may be melting but across north China the heavy snows have left 32 dead, destroyed 7 billion yuan-worth of winter crops and caused 15,000 building to have collapsed, Xinhua reports. The death toll excludes deaths in traffic accidents caused by the severe weather.

The snows are now moving south, with heavy snow falling across eastern and central China in recent days. This has affected more than a million people and also caused widespread damage to crops.  Xinhua reports 75 million yuan of farm losses in Hubei and  60 million yuan-worth in Anhui. More than 850 homes in Hubei have collapsed under the weight of snow and 113 in Anhui, where repair teams have been out fixing downed power lines.

In Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, the worst blizzard in 40 years drove temperatures as low as −10℃. The increased demand for energy has caused natural gas supplies to more than 70 companies to have been cut off so residential supplies can be maintained. Neighbouring Hunan province is also suffering shortages of natural gas for heating because of the severe weather. Meteorologists predict the snowfall, icy rains and low temperature will continue for another three days.

On the upside, the severe winter weather, with a little help from rain-making rockets, has alleviated the drought in Jiangxi.

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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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Winter Wears On

Life is slowly returning to normal in many of the winter-storm battered central and southern parts of the country, with the exception of Guizhou and Guangxi provinces.

Both are mountainous. The huge official relief effort that is making headway elsewhere is taking time to reach those two provinces’ many remote areas. On Sunday, nine more people died when a bus carrying them skidded off an icy road in Guizhou, Xinhua reported, taking the official death toll to 60, though that is probably an underestimate.

State media are reporting that recovery efforts have restored electricity, cleared blocked roads and railways, and resupplied food markets across most affected areas. That is probably an overestimate.

Meanwhile, the Central Meteorological Station forecasts more rain and snow for most parts of southwest China, with sleet and icy rain for Guizhou in the next two to three days.

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