Chinese wheat production bases forecast bump summer harvest

2008-04-22 00:34:26 Xinhua English

JINAN, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Central China's Henan Province, which produces a quarter of the country's wheat, and its neighbor Shandong Province expect a bumper summer harvest after rain this month, the provinces' agricultural authorities said.

Wheat, now at a crucial growing stage, got plenty of water when the recent rain on April 19-21 ended the spring drought in the two provinces, a key factor when experts forecast the harvest.

The sowing area in the two provinces increased by 55,000 hectares this year, up 8,000 hectares in Henan and 47,000 hectares in Shandong. There were 5.07 million hectares of wheat farms in Henan and 3.4 million hectares in its neighbor.

The State Administration of Grain predicted China's grain output would be about 500 billion kg in 2008, the fifth consecutive year of a large wheat harvest.

Experts previously voiced concerns that the extreme weather this past winter and severe drought hitting northern parts of the country this spring, during the ploughing season, could hit grain supplies.

The country raised its minimum purchase prices for rice and wheat for a second time this year to spur grain production and curb inflation, which hit an 11-year high of 8.7 percent in February and declined to 8.3 percent in March.

China harvested 501.5 million tons of grain in 2007, 15 million tonnes less than the total demand, official figures show.

However, Premier Wen Jiabao has said that China, with 40 to 50 million tonnes of rice stocks, would not be greatly affected by global price rises.

A recent report by the World Bank showed that wheat price on the international market has jumped 181 percent during the past three years, and food prices surged 82 percent in general.

The surge in food prices has been led primarily by dairy and grains, but prices of other commodities, with the exception of sugar, have also risen significantly.

Along with the price rises comes shrinking grain stocks worldwide. According to UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the current world food reserve has dropped to the lowest level since 1980.