Drought emergency declared in China

China, the world's largest grain producer, raised its drought-emergency alert to level one -- the highest class -- for the first time, as dry weather threatened crops, livestock and rural incomes, Bloomberg News reported. More than 40% of the winter wheat crop in central and northern China is in drought.


An estimated 4.3 million people and 2.1 million large livestock have limited access to drinking water and, according to the Office of Flood Control and Drought Relief, about 9.5 million hectares (143 million mu) of winter wheat are in drought; one-third of that is in a "severe" condition.


The dry weather may reduce grain output, curtail exports and damage government efforts to increase farm incomes at a time when 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs. President Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao have ordered "all-out efforts" to fight the drought, according to the Xinhua news agency.


China’s State Council has earmarked a further 300 million yuan (US$44 million) to a relief fund in addition to 100 million yuan (US$15 million) already allocated. About 10.3 million hectares (155 million mu) of all crops nationwide have been affected, and dry conditions have spread to 12 provinces.


The drought is the worst to hit northern China in half a century, and average rainfall in the winter wheat area so far is the lowest in 30 years.


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