Heat Wave Joins Floods in Threatening China’s Food Supply

A member of an agriculture cooperative irrigates a field of winter wheat in Shenze County,
Yang Shiyao/Xinhua via Getty Images

China’s trifecta of summertime natural disasters includes torrential rain, tornadoes, and a blistering heat wave in the north.

The floods and tornadoes are destructive and deadly, but Chinese state media warned over the weekend that the northern heat wave could be the most expensive, dangerous, and lingering weather crisis because it could trigger a food shortage.

China’s state-run Global Times reported on Saturday that the National Meteorological Center raised the heatwave alert level in seven northern provinces to orange, the second most severe level. Temperatures in parts of those provinces have exceeded 40 degrees Centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The orange alert level advises residents to minimize outdoor activity, including important labor such as construction, sanitation, and farming:

Experts previously predicted that the continuous high temperature in northern China, home to food plantations, is likely to exert some impact on local agricultural production. In some places the high temperatures may pressure irrigation.

As large swathes of China now enters [sic] scorching and humid summertime, relevant authorities urged local governments to heighten vigilance in case the high temperatures cause excess use of electricity, and the pressured power load may cause fire.

On Monday, the Global Times attempted to soften its warning by reassuring readers that the Chinese government is “well-prepared for extreme weather” and has “lots of experience in dealing with meteorological disasters.”

The Global Times and its “experts” claimed disaster response has improved tremendously since last year’s deadly fiascoes – during which the Chinese government also assured the populace that they had excellent preparations and abundant experience. 

Some rescue workers admittedly died this year when trying to help civilians with the rising flood waters, but the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters declared their deaths offered “a huge lesson to be learned,” implying it will not happen again.

As for the northern heatwave, omnicompetent government officials are reportedly “coordinating power from other provinces and strengthening power equipment maintenance” to avoid dangerous blackouts.

“The National Development and Reform Commission said last week that the country has sufficient electricity generation capacity. The amount of power generated by key hydropower plants increased significantly compared with the same period last year, and coal storage of coordinated power plants is also at a record high, which lays a solid foundation for China to ensure electricity security in the summer peak season,” the Global Times reported.

China was already teetering on the brink of a food crisis due to its “zero-Covid” coronavirus lockdowns, on top of the annual northern heatwave and drought season, which always raises agricultural anxieties. This year’s concerns are further exacerbated by global instability in food and fertilizer markets caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Agricultural officials concerned about crops in Henan, a major growing region with arable land equal to the size of Sri Lanka, visited the province on Sunday to check on local supplies of water,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.

“Prolonged periods of high temperatures could force China to limit, stagger or ration power consumption of industrial users during peak periods,” Reuters added – an intervention that could affect the agricultural industry as much as any other.


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