français    español
GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

12 May 2006

Severe and Prolonged Drought Threatens Food Security in Western China

Several provinces in Western and North China have experienced a prolonged drought, with reduced rainfall and higher temperatures. Hundreds of reservoirs have dried up and tens of thousands of wells are either dry or nearly empty. Some five million hectares of winter crops are estimated to have been lost or damaged, and the areas planted in spring crops have been reduced substantially. The most affected provinces include Yunnan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei.

The drought in Ningxia started in 2004 and some districts have not received substantial rainfall for over 600 days. In the worst-hit districts, over 60 percent of winter wheat crops were reported as totally lost, with a 40-50 percent reduction in output in the remaining areas. Out of 940 000 hectares of planned spring crops, only some 30 percent were planted. In Hebei Province, some 2.3 million hectares of agricultural land have been severely affected by two consecutive drought seasons, and the level of groundwater has fallen by 0.6 meters.

The affected areas are among the poorest regions of China, with 2004 per capita annual incomes of rural households of $227 in Yunnan, $226 in Gansu, and $283 in Ningxia. Over half of rural households are under the poverty line and have great difficulty in access to food markets. The drought will have a serious impact on vulnerable groups, particularly in affected mountain areas, where there are few alternative sources of income. Rural populations, including elementary school children in Ningxia, have reportedly reduced the number of daily meals from three to two.

Following the recent visit of the Prime Minister to drought stricken areas, the government is planning a response to the crisis.