Northern China Experiencing Worst Drought in Over 30 Years

February 9, 2009 1:36 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:14 pm
People in Hebei Province are suffering from water shortage due to the worst drought in recent years. (Getty Images)
People in Hebei Province are suffering from water shortage due to the worst drought in recent years. (Getty Images)

The worst drought in decades is still going on in northern China. There has been no rainfall in the Beijing area for over one hundred days, which is a very rare phenomenon for this time of year since 1972. Since Oct. 24, 2008, the precipitation recorded by the Beijing Southern Observatory was only .004 inches (on December 21, 2008), and there has been no additional measurable rainfall for over 100 days. Since autumn 2008, the precipitation in the Beijing area has continued to decline, and is even lower than that during the same period of the previous year.

Studies have shown that the area affected by the drought continues to expand, and that the drought of last autumn and winter is very likely to continue well into this spring, and the situation is considered so serious that on Feb. 3, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a first-level contingency plan to combat the drought.

The Beijing News reported on Feb. 4, that according to the Ministry of Agriculture, since wheat seeds sown last winter have started to sprout, there has been no measurable precipitation in the past three months in northern China, northwestern China, the area between the Huanghe River and the Huaihe River and the area between the Huaihe River and the Yangtse River. The average rainfall has dropped to 70 to 90 percent below normal for this time of year. The wheat-growing regions in northern China have suffered a severe drought for two seasons in a row, which was  very rare in past years.

Wheat accounts for over 20 percent of China’s yearly grain output, with the winter wheat crop making up about 90 percent of its national wheat harvest each year, but there has not been any rainfall at all this season (2008 – 2009) in some parts of Henan province, one of the major wheat-growing regions in China, since farmers planted their wheat last year.

As of Feb. 2, the total area affected by the drought in Henan, Anhui, Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi, Gansu and Sha’anxi Provinces adds up to over 141,000,000 mu (about 23 million acres)—132,000,000 mu (about 21 million acres) more than last year—indicating that about 43 percent of the winter wheat is being affected.

Ma Wenfeng, a wheat production analyst from Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultants, Ltd., said, “According to my conservative estimate, the severe drought in the primary wheat-growing regions will reduce the national wheat harvest this year by approximately two to five percent. In the hardest hit regions, such as Henan and Anhui Provinces, the harvest this season will be reduced by about 20 percent from last year’s. If there is still no rainfall in the coming spring, it will be more severe.”

According to the latest data released by the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau, there has been no significant (measurable) precipitation in Beijing since last October, and the average rainfall in the Beijing area has been merely 1.1 mm (.04 inches), which is much less than last year’s 19.mm (0.77 inches) or the annual average of 23.6mm (0.93 inches) over the last 10 years. The precipitation is the second lowest since 1952, and only slightly higher than the 0.6mm (.02 inches) of the period between 1970 and 1971.

Read original article in Chinese.