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Drought hurts China's rice crop, output seen lower
BEIJING ,China is expected to harvest less rice this year as the effects of drought add to already reduced plantings by farmers in response to weaker prices, agriculture officials and state media said on Wednesday.
China's rice output is currently expected to fall by 6.37 million tonnes, or 3.7 percent, to 168 million tonnes in calendar 2003 from last year, said the China National Grain and Oils Information Centre, the state-backed grain think-tank.
Rice output was expected to fall 3.0 percent year-on-year to 29.5 million tonnes the lowest level since 1985, an analyst at the centre told Reuters.
The lower output was due mainly to smaller acreage's, as farmers cut crops in reaction to weaker prices, but drought might prompt the centre to revise its current total estimate even lower, analysts said.
"It is still to say how much the drought has damaged the crop, but output would definitely fall further," said the analyst.
In Hunan province, little rainfall and high temperatures over the past 40 days have caused paddy fields to crack and rice crops to wilt, industry officials said.
The dry spell has damaged 800,000 hectares, a fifth of Hunan's farmland, said a local agriculture official. Hunan is the country's top rice province, making up 14 percent of China's total rice production, he said.
"The drought is quite severe this year in Hunan and many rice crops have withered as there is no rain," said the official.
He said late rice crops, which will not be harvested until later this year, would be the hardest hit, while rice, which has already been harvested, had suffered only limited damage.
Drought has covered eight provinces, affecting 3.7 million hectares of farmland, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters as saying.
Among the eight provinces, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Fujian were hardest hit as about 30 percent of farmland dried out, it said.
But traders said the weather damage should have only a minor impact on the domestic rice market due to huge stockpiles and frequent grain auctions across the country.
MGR Archive 1.8.2003
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