China says drought in wheat belt 'grim'

BEIJING  — Provinces in China's severely parched northeast have been ordered to step up emergency irrigation as part of a $1 billion effort to minimize the loss of crucial wheat crops.
China is the world's largest wheat-growing nation but its wheat belt has gotten virtually no precipitation since October. Expected shortages of the crop in China have already pushed up global prices for the commodity.
The government's Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in an online statement late Sunday that the drought situation remained "grim" and urged local officials to dig more wells and carry out other emergency irrigation measures.
They were told to "do everything possible to realize a good summer harvest."
State media quoted a Ministry of Agriculture official as saying Sunday that recent light snowfalls were far short of what the area needs.
Ministry expert Yu Zhenwen told the official Xinhua News Agency that the hardest-hit regions needed at least 50 millimeters (2 inches) of precipitation but that recent snowfalls amounted to less than 10 millimeters (half an inch).
China has already said it plans to spend $1 billion to alleviate the drought, which as of Friday had affected 17 million acres (6.75 million hectares) of crops and left nearly 3 million people short of drinking water.
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