Chinese farmers struggle as scorching drought causes crops to wilt

By MARK SCHIEFELBEIN
Associated press

LONGQUAN, China (AP) — Hundreds of persimmons that should be laden with yellow fruit are wilting in the greenhouse in Gan Bingdong, southwest China, adding to growing agricultural losses during a scorching summer. which is the driest in the country for six decades.

Gan farm south of the industrial metropolis of Chongqing lost half its vegetable crop in heat reaching 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) and a drought that narrowed the giant Yangtze River and withered crops in central China.

Gan’s surviving eggplants are no bigger than strawberries. A reservoir next to his farm dried up, forcing him to pump groundwater.

“The high temperatures this year are very annoying,” Gan said.

Drought conditions in parts of China, from the densely populated east through the central agricultural provinces to eastern Tibet, have “significantly increased”, the national meteorological agency said on Saturday.

Forecasts called for high temperatures and no rain for at least three more days from Jiangsu and Anhui provinces northwest of Shanghai to Chongqing and Sichuan provinces in eastern Tibet.

Local authorities have been ordered “to use all available water sources” to supply households and livestock, the weather agency said.

The biggest impact is in Sichuan, where factories were closed and offices and shopping malls were ordered to turn off air conditioning after reservoirs to generate hydroelectricity fell to half of their normal level.

The province of 94 million people gets 80% of its electricity from hydroelectric dams.

Factories that make processor chips for smartphones, car components, solar panels and other industrial goods were closed for at least six days until Saturday. Some say production will be depressed while others say customer supply will not be affected.

The shutdowns add to challenges for the ruling Communist Party as President Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to attempt to break with tradition and grant himself a third five-year term in office. head at a meeting in October or November.

Growth in industrial production and retail sales weakened in July, dampening China’s economic recovery after Shanghai and other industrial hubs shut down from late March to fight virus outbreaks.

The economy grew just 2.5% from a year earlier in the first half of 2022, less than half the official annual target of 5.5%.

State-run utilities transfer electricity to Sichuan from other provinces. Authorities used fire trucks to deliver water to two dry villages near Chongqing.

In Hubei province, east of Chongqing, 220,000 people needed clean water, while 6.9 million hectares (17 million acres) of crops were damaged, it said on Saturday. the provincial government. He declared a drought emergency and released disaster relief.

In Sichuan, 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of crops were lost and 433,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) damaged, the provincial disaster committee said on Saturday. He said 819,000 people were facing shortage of drinking water.

According to Chongqing authorities, around 1 million people in rural areas will face drinking water shortages, Shanghai newspaper The Paper reported.

Gan, the farmer south of Chongqing, said he had lost a third of his persimmon plants.

Farmers in the region typically harvest rice in late August or September, but plan to finish at least two weeks early before the plants die, according to Gan.

A community tank next to Gan’s farm is almost empty, leaving a pond surrounded by cracked earth. After the supply channels dried up, a leak occurred and the heat accelerated the evaporation. Gan pumps groundwater for irrigation.

“If the high temperature returns every year, we will have to find a solution such as building nets, daily irrigation or installing a spray system to reduce losses,” Gan said.

Meanwhile, other regions have suffered deadly flash floods.

Floods in Qinghai province in the northwest of the country have killed at least 23 people and left eight missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.

Landslides and overflowing rivers hit six villages in Datong County, Qinghai on Thursday night, according to the report. Some 1,500 people have been driven from their homes.

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AP video producer Olivia Zhang contributed.

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