China Declares Emergency as Drought Bites

Reuters reports on a severe drought hitting central and northern China:

The drought gripping parts of central and northern China has sent Zhengzhou wheat futures prices up 5 percent this week but physical prices have not moved, with most investors confident the country’s reserves and last year’s big harvest can offset any fall in wheat production this spring.

But the drought could hurt the incomes of farmers in Henan, Anhui and other populous provinces when many have lost factory and construction jobs after China’s growth faltered in late 2008.

The national Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief declared a “level 2” emergency, calling it a “severe drought rarely seen in history”, the People’s Daily and other official media reported.

Read also “China’s Food Problem” from Forbes, about how the drought is threatening crops. Some scientists are worried that the drought could facilitate the transmission of bird flu. From Bloomberg:

The lack of rainfall in Shandong, Shaanxi and other northern provinces since October causes stress for local fowl, said Hong Kong Veterinary Association President Veronica Leong, who specializes in birds. “Any sort of stress would make birds more susceptible to disease,” she said by e-mail today.

Bird flu killed five people in China last month, three of whom were from regions experiencing drought. Lo Wing-Lok, a health adviser to the Hong Kong government, said yesterday China has an outbreak of bird flu among poultry that its government hasn’t reported.

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