CHANGSHA, May 21 (Xinhua) -- An ongoing drought has jeopardized rice crops in central China's Hunan and Hubei provinces, two major rice-growing regions in the country.
In Nanxian County in Hunan's Yiyang City, some farmers said they were anticipating to suffer smaller harvests in a large area of early season rice crops that should be reaped in July.
Hunan is one of China's largest rice-growing provinces, which produced 30.5 million tonnes of rice in 2010.
Although the rice crops appeared green, a Xinhua reporter saw cracks as wide as four fingers on parched land in the county's Jiejiazhou Village, where farmers usually grow and harvest rice crops twice a year.
Jiang Weiqing, the village official, said the village reduced its rice crops to 370 mu (about 24.7 hectares) this year from 850 mu in normal years due to the drought.
"In previous years, one mu of paddy field produced 400 to 500 kilograms of rice, on average, and the output could drop to no more than 150 kilograms," Jiang said, adding that about half of the crops would face harvest failures.
Hu Jian, a farmer in Nanxian's Hongyanhu Village, has been low in spirit, as the drought has persisted for two months.
Hu said he was likely to lose about 200,000 yuan (30,800 U.S.dollars) as he planted more than 600 mu of rice crops this year, about 500 mu more than last year.
"I've given up some 200 mu that have no irrigation water sources due to the drought," He said.
Nanxian County had received rainfall of 160.2 millimeters since January, only 40 percent of that recorded during the same period in previous years, said Yao Nianhua, deputy head of the county's water resources bureau. "Five of the six rivers in the county have dried up."
In Hunan, since January the inflow of four branches of the Yangtze River, including Xiangjiang River, Zishui River, Yuanjiang River and Lishui River, has reached only 33.5 billion cubic meters, 46 percent less than that recorded during the same period in previous years, according to figures released by the provincial drought relief authorities.
Further, the drought has affected more than 4.4 million mu of crops and left 820,000 people short of drinking water in Hunan, the figures showed.
The drought has also plagued neighboring Hubei Province for months.
In Jianli County, the largest rice-growing county in Hubei, waters levels in its major rivers have set a record low, according to local drought relief officials.
By Friday, the county had seen precipitation of 183 millimeters this year, 61 percent less than recorded during the same period in previous years, they said, adding that 2.15 million mu of crops were affected by the drought.
The meteorological authorities in Hunan forecast rains throughout the province from Saturday to Monday and the precipitation was expected to reach 30 millimeters in many parts.
However, meteorological authorities said the rainfall would not fundamentally relieve the drought.