LONGQUAN, China — Hundreds of persimmon trees that should be loaded with yellow fruit are wilting in the greenhouse of Gan Bingdong in southwestern China, contributing to mounting agricultural losses in a scorching summer that is the country’s driest in six decades.
Goose’s farm south of the industrial metropolis of Chongqing lost half its vegetable crop in heat of up to 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) and a drought that has shrinked the giant Yangtze River and wilted crops across central China.
All surviving eggplants are no bigger than strawberries. A reservoir next to his farm has dried up, forcing him to pump groundwater.
“This year’s high temperatures are very annoying,” Gan said.
Drought in a swath of China from the populous east through central agricultural provinces to eastern Tibet has “increased significantly,” the national weather agency said on Saturday.
The forecast called for high temperatures and no rain for at least three more days from Jiangsu and Anhui provinces northwest of Shanghai, via Chongqing and Sichuan provinces east of Tibet.
Local authorities were ordered to “use all available water sources” to supply households and livestock, the weather agency said.
The biggest impact has been in Sichuan, where factories have closed and offices and shopping centers have been ordered to turn off air conditioning after hydropower reservoirs dropped to half their normal levels.
The province with 94 million inhabitants gets 80% of its electricity from hydropower dams.
Factories making processor chips for smartphones, auto parts, solar panels and other industrial goods were shut down for at least six days through Saturday. Some say production will decline, while others say delivery to customers will remain unaffected.
The closures compound challenges for the ruling Communist Party as President Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to try to break with tradition and grant himself a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or Nov.
Factory output growth and retail sales weakened in July, slowing China’s economic recovery after Shanghai and other industrial centers were closed in late March to fight virus outbreaks.
The economy grew by just 2.5% from a year earlier in the first half of 2022, less than half the official annual target of 5.5%.
State-run utilities are moving power to Sichuan from other provinces. Authorities used fire trucks to supply water to two dry villages near Chongqing.
In Hubei province, east of Chongqing, 220,000 people needed drinking water while 6.9 million hectares of crops were damaged, the provincial government said on Saturday. It declared a drought emergency and released disaster relief.
In Sichuan, 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of crops have been lost and 433,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) damaged, the provincial disaster committee said Saturday. According to the report, 819,000 people faced a shortage of drinking water.
Authorities in Chongqing say an estimated 1 million people in rural areas will face drinking water shortages, the Shanghai newspaper The Paper reported.
Gan, the farmer south of Chongqing, said he has lost a third of his persimmon plants.
Farmers in the area usually harvest the rice in late August or September, but plan to finish at least two weeks before the plants die, Gan said.
A community reservoir next to Gan’s farm is nearly empty, leaving a pool surrounded by cracked earth. After the supply channels ran dry, a leak occurred and the heat accelerated evaporation. Gan pumps underground water for irrigation.
“If the high temperature comes every year, we will have to find a solution, such as building nets, daily irrigation or installing a sprinkler system to reduce the loss,” Gan said.
Meanwhile, other areas have faced deadly flash floods.
Floods in northwestern Qinghai province have left at least 23 people dead and eight missing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing local authorities.
Mudslides and overflowing rivers hit six villages in Datong province in Qinghai late Thursday, the report said. About 1,500 people were displaced from their homes.
AP video producer Olivia Zhang contributed.
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