Crop warning over China drought
A prolonged dry spell in parts of northern, central and eastern China is threatening both crops and water supplies, Chinese state media says.
Shandong province is experiencing its driest weather for 60 years.
Half the wheat-growing land there is affected, while almost a quarter of a million people face drinking water shortages, the China Daily said.
Beijing has also been experiencing its longest dry spell for more than 30 years, another state daily said.
The Chinese capital has had no significant rainfall for three months, the Beijing Times reported.
Analysts say this drought is likely to put further pressure on food prices, which have been rising sharply for months.'Big losses'
Earlier this month, the authorities pledged $15bn (£9.4bn; 98.6bn yuan) in support to help farmers cope with the effect of the drought.
Guo Tiancai, a wheat expert at the agriculture ministry, said that although measures to date were providing adequate irrigation for the winter wheat crop, further drought would be damaging.
"As the temperature warms up in spring and wheat grows faster, any measures which are not in place during the period could cause big losses to the final yield... immeasurable losses," he wrote in a notice on the ministry's website.
In Shandong, many areas had seen no rain for four months, the provincial water bureau said. Fire trucks were being used to deliver water to 240,000 people and 107,000 livestock.
The northern provinces of Shanxi and Hebei have also experienced lower than average rainfall, while the central province of Henan is facing drought.
Visiting Henan at the weekend, Premier Wen Jiabao called for more investment in technologies aimed at reducing the impact of drought, China Daily said.
Forecasters say the dry weather could continue well into the spring.