Chinese farmers struggle as searing drought wilts crops

Chinese farmers struggle as searing drought wilts crops

LONGQUAN, China (AP) — Hundreds of persimmon trees that should be laden with yellow fruit lie withered in Gan Bingdong’s greenhouse in southwest China, contributing to mounting farm losses in a scorching summer that is the country’s driest in six decades.

Goose Farm, south of the industrial hub of Chongqing, lost half its vegetable crops amid heat reaching 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) and a drought that shrank the vast Yangtze River and wilted crops across central China.

Goose surviving eggplants are no larger than strawberries. A reservoir next to his farm has dried up, forcing him to pump groundwater.

“This year’s high temperatures are very annoying,” Gan said.

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

The forecast 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 east of Tibet.

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

The biggest impact is in Sichuan, where factories have been shut and offices and malls have been asked to turn off air conditioning after hydroelectric power reservoirs fell to half their normal levels.

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

Factories that make processor chips for smartphones, auto components, solar panels and other industrial goods have been closed for at least six days through Saturday. Some say production will fall, while others say deliveries to customers will not be affected.

The closures pose another challenge for the ruling Communist Party as President Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to break with tradition and secure a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or November to rent.

Factory output and retail sales growth weakened in July, holding back China’s economic recovery after Shanghai and other industrial hubs were shut down from late March to combat virus outbreaks.

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

State power companies are shifting power from other provinces to Sichuan. Authorities deployed fire trucks to deliver water to two dry villages near Chongqing.

In Hubei Province, east of Chongqing, 220,000 people needed drinking water while 6.9 million hectares of crops were damaged, the provincial government said on Saturday. She 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) were damaged, the provincial disaster committee said on Saturday. It was said that 819,000 people were affected by drinking water shortages.

Authorities in Chongqing say an estimated 1 million people in rural areas will face water shortages, Shanghai news agency The Paper reported.

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

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

A community reservoir next to Goose Farm is nearly empty, leaving a pool surrounded by cracked earth. After the supply channels ran dry, a leak appeared and the heat accelerated evaporation. Gan pumps groundwater for irrigation.

“When the high temperature comes every year, we must find a solution, such as building nets, watering daily, or installing a spray system to reduce the loss,” Gan said.

Meanwhile, other areas have suffered deadly flash floods.

At least 23 people were killed and eight were missing in floods in the northwestern province of Qinghai, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.

Mudslides and overflowing rivers hit six villages in Datong County in Qinghai late Thursday, the report said. Around 1,500 people were driven from their homes.


AP video producer Olivia Zhang contributed.


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