CHONGQING, China (AP) — China says it will try to protect its grain harvest from record-setting drought by using chemicals to generate rain, while factories in the southwest waited Sunday to see whether they would be shut down for another week due to shortages of water to generate hydropower.
The hottest, driest summer since the government began recording rainfall and temperature 61 years ago has wilted crops and left reservoirs at half their normal water level. Factories in Sichuan province were shut down last week to save power for homes as air conditioning demand surged, with temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
The coming 10 days are a “key period of damage resistance” for southern China’s rice crop, said Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian, according to the newspaper Global Times.
Authorities will take emergency steps to “ensure the autumn grain harvest,” which is 75% of China’s annual total, Tang said Friday, according to the report.
The disruption adds to challenges for the ruling Communist Party, which is trying to shore up sagging economic growth before a meeting in October or November when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to award himself a third five-year term as leader.
A smaller Chinese grain harvest would have a potential global impact. It would boost demand for imports, adding to upward pressure on inflation in the United States and Europe that is running at multi-decade highs.
Also Sunday, thousands of factories in Sichuan province that make solar panels, processor chips and other industrial goods waited for word on whether last week’s six-day shutdown would be extended.
A document that circulated on social media and said it was from the Sichuan Economic and Information Industry Department said the closure would be extended through Thursday, but there was no official confirmation.