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Snow-hit Farmers Combating Disaster Before Lunar New Year

Snow-hit farmers in south China are sparing no effort in reducing losses with the help of local technicians ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival.

Zhang Guoqing, a 54-year-old farmer in Huangma Village, Nanchang County in the eastern Jiangxi Province, one of the hardest-hit regions, was sweeping snow off his greenhouse with a cloth-wrapped stick on Sunday morning.

"I've never seen such a long period of snow in my lifetime. My family relies on my greenhouse vegetables to get through the holiday. They must never collapse." said Zhang, staring at the one-centimeter-deep snow on the ground.

Adjacent to the greenhouses, orange planters were rocking the branches to shave off the snow and burning straw to warm the orange trees. Fish farmers were breaking ice and drawing up underground water to warm the ponds with the help of county technicians.

The worst snow disaster in five decades has decimated southern China since mid-January by freezing crops. A new cold snap will affect the country's central and eastern regions in 10 days with more rain and snow. This would devastate the already severe snow-combating situation, according to a Central Meteorological Station forecast on Sunday.

"The blizzard disaster in the south would have a severe impact on winter crops, and the impact on fresh vegetables could be catastrophic in certain areas," Chen Xiwen, director of the office of the central leading group on rural work, said on Thursday.

Cole (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, among others) and other vegetables, oranges and wheat, in particular, suffered severely from the snow, according to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).

A total of 9.4 million hectares of farmland, mainly located in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, was hit by the snow. Among these, about 1.08 million hectares had lost all of their output to the bad weather, according to a report on the MOA website on Sunday.

The MOA dispatched 13 teams of experts to eight of the worst-hit provinces and technicians at all levels were going into the fields and helping farmers to combat the disaster, according to the website.

In Jiangxi, more than 40,000 farming technicians in more than 300 teams are helping farmers reduce their losses.

"We have had freezing disasters before but the crops could recover in two or three days. The 20-day-long cold snap made our previous experience of no use. Most of the 5,000 mu (333 hectares) of vegetables in our village have been frozen to death," said farmer Zhang.

Min Yuezhong, Nanchang Municipal Vegetable Promotion Center director, who was giving guidance to farmers in the village on Sunday, said: "We have used many technologies that have seldom been used in the south to combat the disaster, such as channeling the underground water to warm up the pond, firing straw to fume the trees."

"The new technologies are both challenges to us technicians and to the farmers."

Despite the continuing poor weather, the farmer’s effort to combat the snow has given hope for the 2008 harvest.

Most of the one million hectares of winter crops in the province have being applied to various anti-freezing measures. This has reduced the losses at the utmost, said Mao Huizhong, head of the Jiangxi Provincial Agriculture Department, on Sunday.

(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2008)

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