China earmarks $1 bn to battle drought

February 10th, 2011 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Feb 10 (IANS) The Chinese government will spend $1 billion to fight the drought which has hit a huge part of the country’s north.At least 6.7 billion yuan ($1.02 billion) will be spent for providing water in the affected areas, and construct emergency wells and irrigation facilities, the government said in a statement after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The disaster has left a swathe of grain-producing regions without rainfall for more than three months, the China Daily reported Thursday.

Wheat prices continued to rise and the UN has warned of serious consequences for the winter harvest in the affected areas which have been witnessing the worst drought of the last six decades.

The government has also decided to pay crop-growers higher prices for their produce to offset damage to their yield in the drought-stricken areas.

Some 2.57 million people and 2.79 million livestock are facing shortage of drinking water, official figures showed.

Eight major grain-producing provinces, including Shandong, Jiangsu, Henan, Hebei and Shanxi, have been affected. Together they produce more than 80 percent of China’s winter wheat.

A total of 7.8 million hectares of wheat crops have been affected so far in the eight provinces, accounting for 42.4 percent of their total wheat-sown area, the agriculture ministry said.

Last week President Hu Jintao and premier Wen visited the affected areas and called for “all-out efforts” to fight the disaster.

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