China

Severe Drought In China’s Northern Bread Basket Threatens Harvests


A farmer stands at the bottom of the Zhifang Reservoir, near Dengfeng, China

Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

A farmer stands at the bottom of the Zhifang Reservoir, near Dengfeng, China

Southern China is a rice-growing region, while the northeast is the country’s wheat and corn-growing “bread basket.” This summer the northern province of Liaoning is suffering the worst drought in 63 years, according to the local meteorological bureau: The province has seen the lowest precipitation since the government began keeping records in 1951. The dry summer threatens immediate drinking water supplies and autumn harvests.

The agricultural research service Shanghai JC Intelligence predicts that China’s corn yields may drop 1.5 percent this year, which could drive up domestic corn prices and compel farmers to use alternative grains for animal feed.

(China also imports from the U.S., but since last fall, Chinese inspectors have rejected an increasing number of shipments found to contain unapproved genetically modified organisms (GMO) varieties.)

Other regions have also suffered under the drought, including the northern provinces of Inner Mongolia and Jilin, and central Henan province. In Inner Mongolia, 300,000 people have faced drinking-water shortages, according to state-run Xinhua newswire. More than 270,000cattle have also gone without water. Xinhua reported economic losses to the poor northwestern province total $37 million so far.

Harvests of soybean and barley may also be hurt by the drought, as well as livestock health.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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