China will use chemicals to seed clouds in order to generate rainfall as it seeks to negate the effects of record-breaking droughts, with grain harvests threatened and factories in the southwest of the country forced to shut down due to water shortages.
The hottest, driest summer since records began 61 years ago has seen crops wilt while reservoirs have dropped to below 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 reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
Authorities will take emergency steps to “ensure the autumn grain harvest,” said Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian, adding that the coming 10 days are a “key period of damage resistance” for southern China’s rice crop.
Authorities will “try to increase rain” by seeding clouds with chemicals and spraying crops with a “water retaining agent” to limit evaporation, Tang’s ministry said on its website, without offering details of where the efforts would take place.
The challenge posed by severe weather is just one of many facing the ruling Communist Party, which is trying to boost an ailing economy 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 reduced Chinese grain harvest is likely to have a global impact, boosting demand for imports and adding to inflationary pressure.