By Mahua Venkatesh
New Delhi, June 20: Large swathes of crops including paddy have been destroyed by heavy floods in China, leading to further challenges to food security. The authorities have warned of more rains in the coming days. The Russia-Ukraine war has already led to food shortages pushing global prices. Food imports could only rise for the world’s second-largest economy, which is battling several other economic challenges.
Severe weather fluctuations from floods to droughts in China, which has 1.4 billion people, have become a cause for concern.
Xinhua News said that to prevent floods in the southern parts of China, the ministry activated a level IV emergency response for the provinces of Zhejiang and Anhui on Saturday.
It also maintains its level III emergency response for Guangdong and Guangxi, as well as the level IV emergency response for Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. Rice is one of the major crops grown in Fujian, Hunan and Jiangxi, wheat is grown in Guizhou.
China’s President Xi Jinping, who has outlined food security as a priority, has said that the rice bowl of the country must be firmly kept in Chinese hands.
“China is seriously working towards food security but such extreme climatic conditions have come up as roadblocks, the authorities will find it difficult to resolve this in a short time. The issue of food security has been discussed by the government for years but the recent Covid 19 pandemic and now the supply disruption due to the Russia-Ukraine war have pushed Beijing even more to secure food for its people,” a researcher who has worked in China told India Narrative.
China is now the world’s largest importer of rice. Its dependence on India for imports of this staple grain has also increased over the last two years.
Though China has about 10 per cent of the world’s total arable land, extreme weather conditions have considerably damaged crops over the years and farmland has often been used for industrial purposes. Besides thinning labour force in the agriculture sector is also a key concern for the country’s policymakers.
A CNN report said that more than 2,700 houses have collapsed or suffered severe damage, and 96,160 hectares of crops have been destroyed — heavy losses for a province that serves as a major rice-producing hub for China. It added that direct economic losses are estimated at about $600 million.
China has been historically prone to floods, which triggered landslides and swamp vast areas of farmland.
Reuters is reporting that in recent times, the country has become even more vulnerable, on account of deforestation, the reclamation of wetlands and the storage of water for power generation and irrigation.
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)