In this photo taken on January 28, 2011, a Chinese farmer smokes near a dried up pond in the village of Danuanzhang in Rizhao in eastern China's Shandong province. Months of dry weather have given China's key wheat-growing province of Shandong its worst drought in at least 40 years. AP

Beijing (AFP) March 2, 2011 - China has said that snow and rain in the country's northern wheat-growing regions over the past week had helped to ease a crippling drought that had sparked fears about rising global food prices.

"The drought in most of the country's winter wheat-growing regions has eased considerably after the widespread precipitation," the agriculture ministry said in a statement dated Tuesday.

The ministry added the situation in some provinces was "basically resolved".

"Life-saving" snow and rain of up to 40 millimetres (1.5 inches) fell in north China late last month during the "crucial" growing period for parched crops, it said.

By Monday, a total of 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) were still affected, according to the government drought relief headquarters -- far less than the 7.7 million hectares that were at risk a month ago.

The dry spell has afflicted China's wheat heartland for more than a month, causing mounting concern abroad that world commodity prices would soar if the country were to buy a large amount of the grain overseas due to a crop failure. …

Despite the apparent improvement, the agriculture ministry warned the task to secure a good harvest remained "arduous" due to the lengthy drought and the fact that the affected regions still needed more rain in the coming weeks.

China says drought eased after snow, rain



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