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‘Rice kingdom’ farmers fear crops may be lost

This aerial photo taken on Aug 5, 2023 shows flooded areas in Yanshou county of Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Famous quality product from Wuchang hard-hit by damage from recent deluge

As floodwaters subside in Northeast China, farmers in the country’s “rice kingdom” are worried profits from this year’s harvest are disappearing with them.

Wuchang in the south of Heilongjiang province lies in the lower reaches of the Songhua River and was hard-hit by the floods. The densely populated county-level city boasts a rice-growing history of almost two centuries and churns out about 700,000 metric tons of high-quality Wuchang rice each year.

Large areas of maturing crops in its black soil have been wiped out less than a month from harvest season.

Heartbroken about their losses, farmers in Wuchang and other northeastern agricultural areas have taken to short-video platforms to seek help.

Against the backdrop of sprawling mud-covered paddies, one farmer in Wuchang expressed her fear that she had lost her crops. She bowed to the camera and asked rice experts if it made sense to use water cannons to wash off the mud in a last-ditch effort to salvage the maturing rice.

“If it can be of help, we want to try,” she said.

On Wednesday, the rain had stopped in Wuchang, but local authorities said the arduous disaster relief work continued.

Li Tianming, who works for a rice-processing company in Wuchang, told news website that the loss is hard to determine, but he estimated that 30 percent of the rice yield in Wuchang might be gone.

Wang Wei, a flood-relief official with the Heilongjiang provincial government, told state broadcaster China Central Television that the deluges affecting Wuchang and adjacent areas are the heaviest on record.

He said 240,000 hectares of farmland had been inundated and more than 2,000 homes destroyed.

Heilongjiang accounted for more than 11 percent of national crop yield last year, and has been the highest grain-producing province for 13 consecutive years, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Shulan in neighboring Jilin province is also seeing huge agricultural losses.

Local authorities said that 43 million yuan ($5.9 million) worth of agricultural insurance claims had been filed in the rice- and corn-growing city, and more than 14,000 hectares of crops had been destroyed.

Jilin government officials said the province contributes almost 6 percent of the country’s total annual crop output.

The central government is racing to curb farmers’ financial losses with relief money to help restore production. Sales of farm produce from affected regions are also being promoted.

On Tuesday, the ministries of finance and agriculture doled out 732 million yuan in emergency relief funds to help the resumption of farming in nine provincial regions, including Heilongjiang and Jilin. The funds will be used to purchase seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and other farming materials and services, they said in a statement.

Damage caused to farm facilities will also be eligible for compensation, the ministries said.

Meanwhile, a circular released on Aug 2 by the National Rural Revitalization Administration called on publicly funded organizations to work with e-commerce enterprises and buy farm produce from affected regions.

Heavy deluges have pounded large swaths of China’s northeast this month, causing rivers to overflow and inundating some of the country’s most productive farmland.

Central and local authorities responded quickly to help restore food production in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, which are major growing areas of rice, soybean and rapeseed.

The downpours caused 85 rivers in the Songhua River Basin to exceed water warning levels, the Ministry of Water Resources said on Monday.

Zuo Haiyang, a flood-relief official with the ministry, said the torrential rains in Northeast China were intense and concentrated. Smaller rivers with weaker flood control capacity were bearing the brunt.

“That’s why the disaster is quite severe,” he said in an interview with CCTV. QR Code

Published Date: August 9, 2023

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