Beijing Water

Despite February snow, Beijing’s crippling drought continues

(March 2, 2011)  Though much of the drought stricken areas in China have now received some precipitation, the North remains dangerously dry.  

Here are excerpts from some of the latest stories on Beijing’s drought, with links to the full articles.

Xinhuanet, February 28, 2011, China’s drought-hit areas shrink after rain, snow

The size of drought-stricken areas in China is significantly smaller after rain and snow since Friday, the country’s drought relief authority said Monday.

As of Sunday, the total acreage of drought-hit farmlands in eight major wheat-producing provinces was 37.82 million mu (2.52 million hectares), down 73.69 million mu from 20 days ago when the drought was at its worst, said the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH) in a statement on its website.

The statement said most of these areas had seen rain or snow since Feb. 25.

The eight provinces include Shanxi, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Gansu, Anhui, while the other three provinces of Shandong, Hebei and Henan are the worst affected with total drought-hit crop areas exceeding 24 million mu.

Shandong received 17 mm of rainfall on average from Friday to Sunday, with Caoxian County in the southwest province seeing the largest precipitation of 35.5 mm, the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said on Monday.

The province’ s meteorological authorities launched its largest cloud-seeding operation in 20 years by firing 5,800 silver-iodide rockets and flares into the sky to increase rainfall and alleviate the worst drought in six decades.

Read the full story here.

BBC, March 1, 2011, China drought worsens in parched North

In some areas these are the driest conditions in a lifetime. Snowfalls in recent days have helped a little, but still, across huge areas of land, water is in short supply.

The countryside is dotted with empty dams. Standing on top of one, near Qufu in Shandong Province, you can see just a tiny muddy pool in the centre of a dam that is hundreds of metres long.

Sitting rusting on the earth is a small boat. Along the dry dam floor people have been planting rows of crops because it has been like this for so long.

Li Si Jiao, 77, his back stooped with age, shuffles slowly along a path on top of the dam. His face is weathered and creased with lines. He gestures at the dam and says the water used to stretch all the way to the village in the distance, but no more.

This is China’s breadbasket, the heart of its grain growing lands, and all around are Shandong’s wheat fields. They are full of lines of seedlings, sprouting from the ground, but wilting and yellowing.

A grey, polluted haze hangs in the air. Every few hundred yards small groups of men and women are working to try to save their crops from the drought.

China is the world’s biggest grower and consumer of wheat. In normal years it is self-sufficient. But if it has to import grain this year then that will have an impact far afield.

Already just the warnings of a possible shortfall in China’s crop have put pressure on global wheat prices.

Read the full story here.

Weekly Times, March 1, 2011, China Drought Fears

Droughts have played a major role in the rise in commodity food prices during the past six months.

That’s nothing out of the ordinary given the craziness of the world’s, and our, weather in recent years.

But when it is China that goes into drought, the world should tremble in fear. Or if you’re a grain grower, plant as much grain as humanly possible and stand back and watch the revenue come home.

What’s of interest is how a country that has such a massive impact on world food production and demand manages the messages about a major drought.

News has seeped out of China about the magnitude of the drought, considered the worst in decades.

Large swathes of China have had almost no rain since October, affecting millions of hectares of crops and leaving many people short of drinking water.

China is the elephant in the room in global grain markets but is generally able to feed its own with wheat.

It produces about 15-20 per cent of world supplies but still imports significant amounts.

China reckons slightly more than a third of its grain regions are directly affected by the current drought, but it has about 60 million tonnes in stockpiles for food-security reasons.

A drought doesn’t mean it has to import a lot more grain.

But if the drought continues or cuts deeper into yields, China could quickly find itself with less than a year’s feed on hand.

Read the full story here.

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