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China is telling farmers to replant or switch crops because harvest time is coming up

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English - As China's record heatwave starts to end, farmers are looking at how long-term drought has hurt their...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - As China's record heatwave starts to end, farmers are looking at how long-term drought has hurt their crops. The government is telling them to replant or switch crops where they can.

The Yangtze basin, which is home to more than 450 million people and a third of the country's crops, has been hurt by high temperatures and low rainfall for more than 70 days.

Even though it's supposed to rain in the next 10 days, farmers near the empty Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province in central China, which is usually a flood outlet for the Yangtze, are worried that the heat has already done too much damage.

In an emergency notice sent out on Tuesday, the Agriculture Ministry told farmers to harvest and store rice and take steps to improve grain growth in the coming weeks. Farmers are told to switch to late-autumn crops like sweet potatoes in places where the drought has already caused a lot of damage, but this isn't easy to do.

A farmer named Hu Baolin, who is 70 years old and lives in a village outside of Nanchang, the provincial capital of Jiangxi, said, "We can't switch to other crops because there's no land."

He said that compared to normal years, his plants, like rapeseed oil and sesame, were much less grown up, and his pomelos were only a third of their usual size.

Nearby wells were almost dry, and a group of geese hung out near a pond that had dried up about 10 days before. Nearby, villagers were also putting out a brush fire.

"Don't let people see it or they might think I brought you here on purpose. In this village, it doesn't matter where you go; it's all the same."

The agriculture ministry said on Tuesday that the hot weather was a "serious threat" to autumn grain production and asked local governments to "do everything possible" to find more water.

China's worst-affected province, Sichuan, is in the southwest. On Thursday, drones were sent there to seed clouds and make it rain, while firefighters were sent to other areas along the Yangtze to spray crops that had dried out.

Analysts thought that rice production was most at risk.

"I think the heatwave will have the biggest effect on the rice crop. Corn will also have problems, but not as many," said Ole Houe, who is in charge of advisory services at IKON Commodities in Sydney.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had already predicted that China, which eats and imports the most rice in the world, would bring in a record 6 million tonnes in 2022/23.


Southwest China's Chongqing and Sichuan province are still reeling from more than two weeks of temperatures over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). This has caused crop damage, forest fires, and power cuts.

In order to save power, factories in Chongqing were told to cut back on production from August 17 to August 24. Those restrictions have now been extended, and factories won't be able to go back to normal until the weather gets better and the government gives the go-ahead.

Even though national forecasters changed the heat alert level from "red" to "orange" on Tuesday, some places in Chongqing, neighbouring Sichuan, and other parts of the Yangtze delta will still have temperatures over 40C until the weekend.

Low rainfall has also hurt the lower parts of the Yangtze, including the eastern coast provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

The Ministry of Water Resources said on Thursday that the water level in Lake Tai, which is between the two provinces, has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years, even though 500 million cubic metres of Yangtze river water have been diverted since mid-July.

China's water ministry said on August 11 that nearly 33 million mu (22,000 square kilometres) of arable land and 350,000 animals had already been hurt by the drought, but the final damage is likely to be much worse.

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