China will try to protect its grain harvest from an unprecedented drought by using chemicals to generate rain, while factories in the southwest could close for another week due to water shortages to generate hydroelectric power, it was reported on Sunday.
The hottest and driest summer since records began in China 61 years ago has withered crops and left reservoirs at half their normal level. Factories in Sichuan province closed last week to save energy in homes as demand for air conditioning surged, with temperatures reaching as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
The next 10 days are a “key period of damage resistance” for South China’s rice crop, Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian said, according to the Global Times newspaper.
Authorities will take emergency measures to “guarantee the autumn grain harvest,” which accounts for 75% of China’s annual total, Tang said on Friday, according to the report.
Authorities will “try to increase rainfall” by seeding clouds with chemicals and spraying crops with a “water retention agent” to limit evaporation, the Agriculture Ministry said on its website. He did not elaborate on where that would be done.
This adds to challenges from the ruling Communist Party, which is seeking to shore up economic growth ahead of a meeting in October or November, when President Xi Jinping is expected to seek a third five-year term as leader.
A reduced Chinese grain harvest would have potential global impact. It would boost demand for imports, adding to inflationary pressure in the United States and Europe, which is at its highest in decades.
Also on Sunday, thousands of factories in Sichuan province that make solar panels, processor chips and other industrial products awaited word on whether last week’s six-day lockdown would be extended.
The governments of Sichuan and neighboring Hubei province say thousands of hectares of crops have been lost.
The Hubei government declared a drought emergency on Saturday and said it would provide disaster aid. The Sichuan government said 819,000 people face shortages of drinking water.
Sichuan has been hit hardest by the drought because it gets 80% of its power from hydroelectric dams. The provincial government says reservoirs are at half normal levels.
Offices and shopping malls in Sichuan were ordered to turn off lights and air conditioning. The subway in Chengdu, the provincial capital, turned off thousands of lights at stations.
Meanwhile, other areas have suffered deadly flash floods.
Floods in the northwestern province of Qinghai have killed at least 25 people and left eight missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.
Mudslides and overflowing rivers affected six villages in Qinghai’s Datong county on Thursday, according to the report. Some 1,500 people were forced to flee their homes.