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February 21, 2011

China drought threatens wheat crop

The Chinese government has said the country's worst drought in decades is likely to continue, putting the winter wheat harvest at risk.

The Ministry of Agriculture said the drought had worsened in some wheat-growing regions despite snowfalls.

Large swathes of China have had almost no rain since October, affecting millions of hectares of crops and leaving many short of drinking water.

Analysts say crop shortages in China could affect prices around the world.

The country's central bank is offering emergency loans for drought-relief projects in northern, central and eastern areas.

Officials are trying to calm fears over shortages, saying the country has enough in reserve to meet demand.

But food prices have been rising quickly in China for months - and people are grumbling, says the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.

China's leaders will not want this latest drought to push prices even higher, our correspondent says.

Last month, the authorities pledged $15bn (£9.4bn; 98.6bn yuan) in support to help farmers cope with the effect of the drought.

Forecasters say the dry weather could continue well into the spring.


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