Chinese quake causes $6 billion damage to agriculture: UN

June 30th, 2008 - 6:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Rome, June 30 (DPA) Last month’s devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan province caused damage worth $6 billion to agriculture, a UN food agency said Monday. More than 70,000 people died in the May 12 quake, which measured 8 on the Richter scale.

Over 30 million people in China’s rural areas were affected, with food production estimated to take as much as five years to recover, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed, millions of farm animals died, houses and grain stores collapsed and thousands of pieces of agricultural machinery were damaged, according to the FAO, which based the findings on an assessment mission to China.

“In addition to the human tragedy caused by the disaster - mainly the loss of family members - many rural communities in Sichuan province have lost their means to produce food and create income,” FAO senior regional emergency coordinator, Rajendra Aryal, said.

A significant portion of wheat crops could not be harvested after the earthquake due to the lack of labour as a result of deaths and injuries in farming families, FAO said.

The current shortages of pesticides and fertilizers are jeopardizing future food production, it added.

Major seed growing areas in the province, producing up to 20 percent of China’s rice seeds, have been badly hit by the earthquake with more than 20,000 hectares affected.

Rice fields have dried up due to cracks and craters and irrigation systems have been interrupted.

Over three million pigs have been killed by the earthquake, with some villages having lost up to 70 percent of their livestock. Overall livestock losses are estimated at about $2 billion.

The medium and long-term relief efforts will have to focus on the rehabilitation of water reservoirs, dams, animal shelters, the training of farmers in cash crop production and disaster preparedness, FAO said

The Chinese authorities have asked the FAO to coordinate the agricultural rehabilitation efforts in Sichuan province.

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