Drought in China’s key wheat areas hurts planting

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Wheat planting in China’s major growing areas have been hampered by persistent drought, the Agricultural Ministry said Oct. 15, adding to expectations that imports could surge.

Severe drought has affected about half of the total area of central China’s Henan province, which supplies around a quarter of the country’s total wheat output, the ministry said in a report posted on its website.

Any continuation of the drought could threaten the planting of winter wheat, the report said. Winter wheat, due to be harvested in June next year, accounts for more than 90 per cent of the country’s total output.

The Henan government has local farmers to do their utmost to maintain wheat acreages at last year’s level, official news agency Xinhua said in a separate report.

No rain is forecast for the province until Oct. 20, it said.

Dry weather in parts of Shandong, China’s second-biggest wheat-producing province, has also slowed down planting, and in areas without artificial irrigation, wheat cannot be planted at all, the Xinhua report added.

China’s wheat harvest this June was hit by excessive rain, which damaged quality in some major growing areas like Henan, leading to predictions that imports to the world’s top wheat consumer would rise to their highest level in a decade.

Tightening supplies have also pushed domestic wheat prices to a record high.

Beijing has raised its minimum purchase price for the 2014 harvest by 5.4 per cent to 2,360 yuan (US$390) per tonne, but it remains far below the current market price of 2,500-2,680 yuan per tonne for standard grades.

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